Emma Hayes has admitted that Chelsea will not look to replace ‘unique’ Ji So-Yun following the announcement that she is to depart the club at the end of the 2021/22 season.
The 31-year-old South Korea international has spent eight seasons with Chelsea, becoming an integral part of the club’s progression into a footballing powerhouse and scooping 11 major trophies during her time in west London.
Although Hayes branded Ji irreplaceable, the Chelsea manager believes her club’s long-term recruitment strategy, which has seen them sign exciting youngsters Jessie Fleming and Lauren James over the last two summers, will stand the Blues in good stead following Ji’s departure.
“You can’t replace Ji,” Hayes said. “What I’ve learnt in life is don’t replace people with like for like, that’s not something I like to do.
“I think Ji is unique, special, one off, instrumental to our success until this point, but I’m optimistic that the quality of the players we’ve got will also play a key role in our future.
“So we take everything we can from the remaining time we have with Ji and focus on the quality of the players we have here, and not try and replace anyone with like for like.”
Ji joined Chelsea from Japanese outfit INAC Kobe Leonessa in 2014, with the Blues yet to win a major trophy when the playmaker arrived in west London.
The midfield maestro went on to net the winner at Wembley in the 2015 FA Cup final as Chelsea claimed their maiden piece of silverware, before going on to lift the WSL on five occasions (including the Spring Series), two more FA Cups, two Continental Cups and the Community Shield.
In addition to the success she’s enjoyed, Hayes stated that part of Ji’s legacy would be the experience that she can share with the likes of Fleming and James.
“She’s watched this club grow from semi professional status to full time status to Champions League finalists and serial winners domestically, and she’s been a key part of that,” Hayes added.
“She’s also going to pass on vital knowledge to the next generation coming through in Jessie Fleming and Lauren James. I think we’ve got two players who we’ve brought into this club that we see as critical for this club’s future and Ji goes with our blessing.”
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