Given the chance to move to Los Angeles to prepare a team for its debut season, it’s easy to see why Eni Aluko has left Aston Villa for Angel City.
“There’s no rain and snow in May,” the former England international beamed. “L.A. is a city that I think we all appreciate is the heart and soul of entertainment and sports. So it’s really a hub of greatness, frankly, and great brands, innovation, creation, creativity. That really excites me because there’s an energy. I really believe that energy really brings out the best in people.”
Aluko will be the sporting director of a team that starts playing in 2022 in the National Women’s Soccer League and has a star-studded ownership group, including tennis great Venus Williams and Oscar winner Natalie Portman.
“This is really an unmissable opportunity and an honor, to have a truly blank canvas,” Aluko said. “There’s no players yet. There’s no squad yet. There’s no staff yet in terms of the playing team. So I’m really honored to be able to write that first chapter and sit down and really tap into and think about what that’s going to look like.”
Aluko certainly has the experience. With England, Aluko scored 33 goals in 102 appearances and was a runner-up at the 2009 European Championship and finished third at the 2015 World Cup. She also won the league and cup in England with Chelsea and with Juventus in Italy.
After retiring, Villa handed her the sporting director’s job in January 2020 ahead of the team’s debut in the Women’s Super League.
“It wasn’t necessarily a blank canvas and change was something that was quite difficult to implement at times,” Aluko said. “But in this instance, change is embraced. It’s new. It’s fresh. It’s shaping the future.”
At Villa, the men’s team in the Premier League enjoyed much greater resources than the women’s squad.
“Certainly in England, we’re having successful women’s football teams, but there’s always a risk that they’re an afterthought or an extension of (the men’s team),” Aluko said. “It’s really being able to say — how can women’s football in particular have its own brand, have its own existence without having to kind of lean on a bigger brand within the men’s game. Which works. That model works.
“But I think with Angel City, it’s just a completely different opportunity to rewrite that as a women’s women’s brand in of itself that can engage girls and women and young boys, too, around the world.”
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