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‘It’s surreal’: Carpenter’s Lyon move unmatched in Australian soccer

There may not be a team anywhere else in the world, in any sport, able to match that sort of honour roll.

Their squad is so packed with elite talent it’s almost unfair. Norwegian striker Ada Hegerberg, the inaugural winner of the women’s Ballon d’Or, tops the list. But then there’s German national team captain Dzsenifer Marozsán, Japan skipper Saki Kumagai, and a fair chunk of the French side that made last year’s World Cup quarter finals.

“Growing up, that’s the club I wanted to end up at. For me to be going there now is surreal, and I just can’t wait,” Carpenter, who is still just 20, told the Herald.

Ada Hegerberg is among a long list of stars who Ellie Carpenter will soon call teammates at Lyon.

Ada Hegerberg is among a long list of stars who Ellie Carpenter will soon call teammates at Lyon.Credit:AP

There’s talk that England international Lucy Bronze – who loomed as Carpenter’s main competition for her preferred right-back role – may not return for the new season, which is slated to begin in August. That’ll make her path to the first team a little bit easier, but Carpenter anticipates being challenged in every way imaginable at Lyon, a club where just being good isn’t good enough.

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“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to test myself and get better as a player – to work hard week-in, week-out to try and earn my spot and hopefully get minutes with the best players around me,” she said.

That, in turn, will help the Matildas. By the next World Cup – which may very well be hosted by Australia and New Zealand in 2023 – the majority of Australian players will have three seasons of top-quality European club football under their belts. Carpenter is hopeful playing in France will help hone her technical skills, having already stamped herself as one of the game’s most dynamic and physical fullbacks.

“It’s really exciting with the majority of us Matildas now heading over to Europe. It’s just going to make our team that much stronger,” Carpenter said.

“Pretty much everyone will be in the top leagues over there, at the top teams, playing Champions League. If all of us are training with the best players, at the best clubs, with the best facilities, we’re going to have the best chance to be one of the best national teams in the world.”

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Carpenter’s transfer has also netted her US club, Portland Thorns, a tidy transfer fee. It’s been several months in the making, and she said it would not have been possible without the hard work of her agent Buddy Farah, who waded through a litany of late-night phone calls and Zoom meetings to get it over the line.

“I can’t thank Buddy enough for all his work in getting it done as well,” she said.

“When the opportunity arose, I told him that’s where I want to be, and he made it happen, which is quite amazing.

“When I first got with him three or four years ago, my ambition was to always to go to the US for the first couple of years and then hopefully get a stint in Europe. It’s crazy how it’s all unfolding.”

Carpenter’s shift is still subject to a medical, which she will complete upon her arrival in France next week. Once she’s cleared, she will be immediately registered to play for Lyon, who are scheduled to meet Matildas teammate Emily Gielnik’s Bayern Munich in mid-August in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, which were postponed due to COVID-19.

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