Who is Sonia Bompastor? Meet Chelsea's 'cheeky' next potential manager who has Emma Hayes' blessing

Sonia Bompastor is rumoured to be the new Chelsea manager
-Credit: (Image: Photo by Valerio Pennicino - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

Emma Hayes was in no mood for speculation.

When it was put to the Chelsea boss back in February that Lyon head coach Sonia Bompastor was being lined up as her successor, she insisted it was "unfair" to pontificate on another manager's credentials, particularly while they remain under contract elsewhere. "When the club has something to report about a head coach appointment then I'm sure they'll deliver that," was her stern riposte to reporters. "We don't have anything to report at the moment."

Three months on and still there has been no official word from Chelsea on who will take the reins from Hayes, who has now departed to take up the role of manager of US Women's national team. However, with a deal having been struck in April for Bompastor to make the switch to West London this summer, it is now only a matter of time before the Frenchwoman is confirmed as the Blues' next head coach.

On paper, at least, it is the best possible appointment. Bompastor is a serial winner. She has led Lyon to three league titles, three domestic cups and - most crucially - one Champions League triumph, since she became manager in April 2021.

For all of Hayes' successes during her time at Chelsea - of which there have been many - her pursuit of European glory has so far been fruitless. With that in mind, enlisting the services of a coach who has serious pedigree in the continent's premier club competition would constitute a real statement of intent from the Blues.

That other managers have achieved similar feats with Lyon's star-studded squad before going on to fail elsewhere - see the ill-fated Everton tenure of Bompastor's treble-winning predecessor, Jean-Luc Vasseur - should perhaps invoke degree of caution. But, with the pool of elite-level coaches in the women's game rather modest in comparison to the wealth of established managers in men's football, securing the Frenchwoman's signature would irrefutably be a real coup.

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Bompastor is also likely to be a popular choice by virtue of her gender. Hayes has long been an advocate for the development of more elite female coaches, describing the current dearth of female football managers as a "massive issue" when quizzed on the subject earlier this year.

Although the Chelsea boss has refused to be drawn on whether she would prefer her successor to be a woman, she would surely relish the chance to pass the metaphorical baton to someone like Bompastor. According to The Athletic, there is also a "natural preference" for a female coach within the current squad.

There is also an argument that the 43-year-old's storied playing career - she earned 156 caps for France and captained Lyon to two Champions League titles - renders her well qualified to deal with the considerable pressures of managing a football powerhouse like Chelsea. Hayes saw Bompastor's talent firsthand during her time as a football consultant at the now-defunct American side Washington Freedom, where the Frenchwoman was one of the club's star performers in 2009 and 2010.

“Wow! What a brilliant player, honestly an unbelievable left-back with an unbelievable wand of a left boot,” Hayes said of Bompastor before Chelsea's Champions League quarter-final clash with Lyon last year.

“A cultured and brilliant footballer, very quiet, cheeky, funny — the media might not always see that about her. It’s of no surprise to me that her and Camille have done well working together.”

Tactically, Bompastor has also proven herself to be adept. Though she tends to prefer the 4-3-3 formation, with a focus on midfield fluidity and the inverting of full-backs, Lyon are capable of playing in a variety of different ways.

In the 2022 Champions League final, which saw the French giants beat reigning champions Barcelona 3-1, Bompastor used a 4-2-3-1 to stifle the Catalan's fearsome attack while also posing plenty of threat on the break. Having that tactical flexibility is crucial, particularly considering the future Chelsea manager will be inheriting a side that has often fluctuated between a 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1 under Hayes.

Another major strength of the Blues' current squad is its abundance of young talent. Lauren James, Aggie Beever-Jones and Hannah Hampton are just some of the prodigious stars who are excelling for the first team at the moment and Bompastor will be expected to uphold the club's proud tradition of nurturing youth prospects and facilitating their transition to senior football.

Certainly, the fact she spent eight years as Lyon women’s academy director before becoming first team manager should stand her in good stead for that particular task. Add to that the fact she has ample experience of presiding over big names - her Lyon squad includes Ballon d'Or winner Ada Hegerberg and USA captain Lindsey Horan - and it is easy to see why Chelsea's decision makers regard her as the outstanding candidate to become the Blues' next boss.

Of course, so much of what Hayes brings to the club is hard to quantify through the data-driven metrics that now dictate many of football's big calls. She is an excellent people-manager, an exceptional orator and has long been perceived as the Women's Super League's (WSL) unofficial moral compass.

Whether Bompastor can tick all of those boxes remains to be seen. Her final game as Lyon boss ended in heartbreak as the French side were beaten 2-0 by Barcelona in the Champions League final but, despite Saturday's disappointment in Bilbao, there is certainly plenty for the Blues to be excited about heading into next season.