Making the statement signing of Mana Iwabuchi was a proud moment as sporting director and I am excited about 2021

Last Monday Aston Villa Women announced the signing of Mana Iwabuchi, the 27-year-old Japan international and World Cup winner. This was a statement signing for a club in our first season in the WSL, the culmination of a process I’d been working on since the summer, and the moment the deal was concluded has to go down as a highlight of my short career so far as a sporting director.

Villa’s head coach Gemma Davies and I share an admiration and respect for Japanese women’s football and its players past and present. I was fortunate to benefit from the footballing artistry of Japanese legends when playing with Aya Miyama at St Louis Athletica in the USA and Yuki Nagasato during my time at Chelsea, players who, like Mana, displayed the precision and grace that are part of the DNA of Japanese women’s football.

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