Bay FC acquires Barcelona star Asisat Oshoala, two-time Ballon d’Or finalist

Bay FC acquires Barcelona star Asisat Oshoala, two-time Ballon d’Or finalist

Rumors leaked this week that 29-year-old Asisat Oshoala, one of the world’s best footballers, was going to be leaving FC Barcelona to join a team in the National Women’s Soccer League.

Thursday, it was announced which team completed the stunning deal: Bay FC.

The expansion franchise will pay a reported fee of about $162,000 to lure Oshoala to the Bay Area, where she’ll join a nearly full roster that has been training in Santa Barbara ahead of its first preseason game scheduled for Feb. 20.

Bay FC talent evaluators have been scouting in Europe for months to prepare for a moment like this one, and the club now has a face and a name to be the star of the franchise in its inaugural season.

“To have the opportunity to add a player of Asisat’s quality, experience and winning pedigree to our roster is an exciting and important day for the club and the NWSL,” Bay FC general manager Lucy Rushton said in a statement. “She brings a top-class mentality to the field combined with pace and technical ability that allows her to lead the line, while also giving those players around her the license to be creative and thrive in space. Asisat is a proven goal-scorer at the most elite levels of world football, and she comes here to continue that with Bay FC.”

Oshoala, a Nigerian international and six-time African Women’s Footballer of the Year, has played in the last three World Cups in 2015, 2019 and 2023, helping Nigeria advance to the Round of 16 in each of the last two tournaments.

She’s spent the last five seasons at Barcelona, where she scored 107 goals in 149 career appearances. She led Barcelona in scoring in three of her five seasons, tying a league record with 19 goals in 2022, while leading the club to two UEFA Women’s Champions League titles and four league titles.

She was also a nominee for the women’s Ballon d’Or, which goes to the world’s best footballer, in both 2022 and 2023.

Oshoala was reportedly upset with her playing time at Barcelona this season, when she has started just three of the team’s 14 league games, though she’s scored eight times. Her contract was set to expire in June.

Pending the receipt of her P-1 visa and International Transfer Certificate, Oshoala will join Bay FC and lock into a contract through 2026 with an option for 2027.

“I know it’s a big change,” she told CBS Sports. “I understand the challenge I have ahead of me. I know anything is possible. It’s just about the mindset. It’s about what we can build together as a team.”

Oshoala said she’s met with Bay FC coach Albertin Montoya and she sees eye-to-eye with the way he wants to play.

“Albertin’s personality will have a positive impact on the girls,” she said. “In terms of style of play I feel like this is a new team. It’s the first year, so players are getting to know each other and getting to play together from the jump is going to be so hard, I’m not going to lie about that.

“The style of football Albertin wants to play is to keep the ball, play attacking football, which I really love as well. And coming from Barca as well will be interesting to have the same pattern of football. In the NWSL it’s majorly about athleticism but I think he wants to do something different. I like his vision. I also understand we’ll need time to get that going, a new team coming into the league, you need time, a couple of months to build to be successful with that pattern of football. But I know it’s something that’s achievable.”

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Expansion teams have historically struggled in the NWSL, though the San Diego Wave changed that narrative with a strong debut season in 2022 followed by a 2023 season in which the Wave finished with the league’s best record.

A proven winner at every level, Oshoala said the club needs to “go for everything” this year.

Bay FC will kick off its preseason at the 2024 Coachella Valley Invitational at the Empire Polo Club from Feb. 20-24.

The club’s first regular season game will be in Los Angeles against Angel City on March 16, and the first home game will take place at PayPal Park against the Houston Dash on March 30.