Shaw, Moultrie, Williamson – in search of the first £1m women’s footballer


The bar has been raised twice in 2024 — so how long before we see the first $1 million, or even £1million ($1.3m), player in women’s football? And who will it be?

If you had said in January that Mayra Ramirez and Racheal Kundananji would be the record breakers, some observers would have been hard-pressed to tell you who they were.

But Chelsea and Bay FC had seen enough to invest £426,000 and £627,000 for their new signings respectively, 24-year-old Colombia forward Ramirez and Zambia striker Kundananji, 23.

It means the global transfer record has almost doubled since Keira Walsh became the most expensive player in 2022 when she signed for Barcelona.

The Athletic assesses who could be the first seven-figure player.


The bonafide star

In recent transfer windows, it has not necessarily been the biggest-name players who have had the largest amounts of money spent on them.

This is partly because contract lengths in the women’s game still tend to be relatively short, making it easy for players to run them down. Star names can usually be acquired for no transfer fee when their contracts end. 

Chelsea, for example, signed Sam Kerr on a free transfer four years ago. Former Ballon d’Or winners Ada Hegerberg of Lyon and Alexia Putellas of Barcelona are out of contract this summer and could move on without a transfer fee, too.


Chelsea signed Australia striker Kerr on a free transfer in 2020 (Tom Dulat/Getty Images)

Even when Arsenal offered a world-record fee of £500,000 for Alessia Russo 12 months ago, they knew that if it was turned down by Manchester United, which it was, they could bring her in free of charge six months later, which they did.

But the attraction of a big-name star is always going to be there and might be the most obvious way of enticing a club to pay £1million for the first time. Arsenal have seen how Leah Williamson, Beth Mead and other recognisable faces can contribute to commercial success. Many players within the women’s game have become celebrities over the past couple of years and bring tangible marketing benefits to the team that they play for.

go-deeper

As contract lengths for the best players start to lengthen, a side might be tempted to spend £1m or more in an attempt to show off their ability to bring in a big name. Many observers might have picked out Lena Oberdorf, the 22-year-old Wolfsburg midfielder, to attract a world-record fee but this month, she agreed a move to Bayern Munich in the summer after they activated the £342,000 release clause in her contract. Her deal with Bayern runs until 2028, so she could command a high fee if she moved on again in the next few years.

Manchester City’s star striker Bunny Shaw, 27, or Washington Spirit’s 21-year-old winger Trinity Rodman are the kinds of players who could attract £1m bids. Both players have deals until 2026 and have the pedigree to be the face of any club they play for. That combination of talent and fame could see clubs spend more than ever before.

The young talent

In football, potential is often prized more highly than reality. Younger players who have shown promise allow a club to project their future value as close to limitless, with the possibility that they can be key contributors for years to come. 

Release clauses in the contracts of younger players have increased to balance the player’s desire to move to a bigger club if an offer came in with the club’s wish to keep hold of them.

Laura Blindkilde Brown became the third-most expensive female English player when Manchester City triggered her release clause of £200,000 from Aston Villa this January. While that is still a long way off £1m, it was a remarkable fee for a 20-year-old midfielder who has only made 31 WSL starts in her career and shows how the value of young talent is constantly on the rise.

Colombia forward Linda Caicedo is a global star at Real Madrid but given their continued failure to challenge for silverware in Spain and Europe, other clubs might feel the 18-year-old would be attainable for the right fee. 

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Caicedo caught the eye at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand (Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)

Portland Thorns’ Olivia Moultrie has caught the eye, scoring twice in the United States’ 5-0 win against the Dominican Republic last week. The 18-year-old midfielder recently signed a new deal with the Thorns but is the kind of statement player other clubs could potentially want to spend big on.

The positional niche

Prices in football are often inflated when there is seen to be a dearth of quality players available in those positions. A big reason Barcelona paid a world-record fee to Manchester City for Walsh was the fact that outstanding holding midfielders are hard to come by — and she is one of the best around.

That remains the case, with Patri Guijarro (whose contract at Barcelona expires in 2027) or Damaris Egurrola (Lyon, 2027) likely to be attractive to any teams who might have a sudden need in that position.

go-deeper

This trend can be further exacerbated when there is an immediate or unexpected need; selling clubs will set a higher price knowing that the buyer is desperate. This can be seen in Chelsea’s willingness to break the world record to meet Ramirez’s release clause from Levante after Kerr tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

It was a similar case for Chelsea and their deal to sign 26-year-old centre-back Nathalie Bjorn from Everton, with captain Millie Bright a long-term injury absentee.

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Kundananji cost Bay more than £620,000 (Jan Kruger – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Standout players in defence, such as Naomi Girma (whose San Diego Wave contract expires in 2026), or talented strikers, including Laura Freigang (Eintracht Frankfurt, 2025) and Ewa Pajor (Wolfsburg, 2025), could be players who teams want to make quick moves to bring in if they feel there are not many other obvious options available to them.


Record numbers tend to grab the eye but, across the board, spending on women’s footballers is increasing exponentially.

Given that upward pressure, in which developing young players and injury stand-ins are going for six-figure sums, it is only a matter of time until the £1million barrier is broken.

(Top photo: Shaw, Moultrie and Williamson; Getty Images)





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