England star Fran Kirby to leave Chelsea at end of season

England star Fran Kirby announced on Saturday she will leave Chelsea at the end of the season after nine years at the club.

Kirby, 30, will depart Chelsea as their all-time leading goal scorer. She has been integral to their remarkable success under Emma Hayes and with her contract up in June, she has decided to leave the club for a fresh challenge.

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At Chelsea she won five WSL titles, four FA Cups and two League Cups. She was also part of the Chelsea side that reached the final of the Champions League in 2021 where they lost to Barcelona.

“To leave with the trophies that I have won, with the teammates I’ve played with — some of the world’s best players — it has been one of the biggest privileges of my life,” Kirby said in a statement.

“Winning trophies has been amazing, but playing with the people I’ve met has been pretty incredible. For a young girl from Reading, it’s not too bad.

“Growing up I always wanted to be the best and win. That was just an inner drive in myself, I didn’t need the accolades, I just wanted to win. I wanted to keep pushing myself to them limits.

“I still have that now. For me the personal accolades are a bonus on top of what we were already achieving.”

She was named PFA Women’s Player of the Year and the Football Writers’ Women’s Footballer of the Year in both 2018 and 2021. With England, Kirby has won 70 caps, scored 19 goals, and is an integral part of the squad that won the Euros in 2022.

The 30-year-old also endured difficult periods at Chelsea due to injury. She missed most of 2020 with a heart condition, and suffered a knee injury that kept her out of last summer’s Women’s World Cup.

“It’s interesting. I can sit here and say I’ve had the most amazing times as a Chelsea player, but I’ve also had some of the hardest times of my life. Not just in my football career.

“Always for me when I’ve gone through something like that, I’ve wanted to come back in a way that people are proud of. They can see that no matter what happens, I’m always going to get back up and try and fight for my teammates.

“The support I’ve had has been unmatched. When I had my illness, my injuries, that’s when I’ve made some friends for life. I will never forget that no matter how bad I felt during those moments, I always felt loved and supported.”

Kirby’s departure comes as Chelsea embark on a new era under incoming coach Sonia Bompastor. She will leave Chelsea along with other stalwarts Ann-Katrin Berger — who has joined Gotham FC — and Maren Mjelde.