Eniola Aluko expected to leave Aston Villa for role at new Angel City franchise

Eniola Aluko looks likely to join the new Los Angeles-based franchise Angel City, in a role that could see her help shape and influence the team’s development after a successful 16-month stint as Aston Villa’s sporting director.

The 34-year-old is rumoured to be stepping down from her job at Villa this month, although no official announcement has been made on either front.

Aluko was appointed Aston Villa women's sporting director in 2020Aluko was appointed Aston Villa women's sporting director in 2020
Aluko was appointed Aston Villa women’s sporting director in 2020 | Luca V. Teuchmann/Getty Images

Angel City officially launched in the summer of 2020 and is famously backed by a number of high profile individuals from the world of entertainment, sport and business. Actress Natalie Portman and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian are leading members of the ownership group, with other founding members including, but not limited to, Serena Williams, Eva Longoria and Mia Hamm.

The franchise are expected to begin competing in NWSL from 2022 and, following strong rumours earlier in the week that Aluko will be leaving Villa, The Times writes that LA is her expected next move for what could be a substantial role shaping Angel City in preparation for their debut season.

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While Aluko, also now a television pundit, is mostly known for her two spells at Chelsea and achieving over 100 England caps, the retired striker spent some of her playing career in the United States with St Louis Athletica, Atlanta Beat and Sky Blue in the now defunct WPS league.

Having retired from playing in January 2020, Aluko was soon appointed sporting director at Aston Villa, who were at that stage on course to secure promotion to the WSL.

Aluko helped shape Aston Villa following promotion last yearAluko helped shape Aston Villa following promotion last year
Aluko helped shape Aston Villa following promotion last year | Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

She went on to oversee the club’s transition into full professional status and key recruitment ahead of a first ever top flight season. Villa were able to consolidate in the WSL, avoiding relegation on the final day of the campaign, and are in a stronger position now than when Aluko was hired.

“Staying in the league was definitely the original goal,” she told 90min.

“This was the most competitive WSL season, both at the top and the bottom. I don’t think there has ever been a relegation battle like there was this season. The gap between the WSL and the Championship was bigger than ever and we had a lot of players that transitioned from semi-professional to professional and a lot of players who transitioned from playing in the Championship to playing in the best league in the world. That is not an easy transition.

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“In the first season, to stay up, to finish 10th – above our rival [Birmingham], I think it is credit to the players who have to figure out how to hang in there and to be difficult to beat, which is something I thought was really important from the start.

Aluko's original goal was to keep Aston Villa in the WSL and that was achieved on the final day of the seasonAluko's original goal was to keep Aston Villa in the WSL and that was achieved on the final day of the season
Aluko’s original goal was to keep Aston Villa in the WSL and that was achieved on the final day of the season | Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

“If you can’t be strong defensively, you’ve got no chance in the WSL. Making the managerial change of bringing in Marcus Bignot [as interim head coach], who is very organised defensively and quite pragmatic in his approach, I think paid off eventually.

“I think for next season the club will have to invest to bring in players who can take it up to another level and start pushing towards mid-table, similar to how the men’s team have this season.

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“The men’s team just about stayed [in the Premier League] last season, ironically by one point as well, and this season the recruitment has been brilliant in terms of pushing them to another level as a mid-table side. It’s an incremental growth, but to stay in the league in the first season is really important.”

Aluko will be part of BT Sport’s live coverage of the UEFA Women’s Champions League final between Chelsea Women and Barcelona Women live from 7.15pm on Sunday 16th May on BT Sport 2 .

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