Manchester United striker Alessia Russo has insisted that she still sees herself developing with the club in the WSL, although hasn’t ruled out moving to the United States later in her career.
Russo started out at Chelsea, making just one senior appearance for the club, before moving on to Brighton whilst the Seagulls were still a second tier side. After a spell in America playing college soccer with the legendary North Carolina Tar Heels, she joined United in 2020.
The 23-year-old has since emerged as one of the best forwards in the WSL, enjoying an impressive breakout 2021/22 season off the back of long-term injury and then becoming a household name thanks to a starring role for England during a triumphant Euro 2022.
Russo is out of contract with United at the end of this season after the club exercised an option in her deal to extend it to the summer of 2023.
She was reported to have rejected the offer of a new deal shortly before Euro 2022, which arguably worked in her favour given how her worth and profile will have substantially changed because of her performances at the tournament.
But, despite the general uncertainty over her future, Russo said in August that was she ‘looking forward’ to this WSL season with United and is ‘loving her time’ at the club she supported as a girl.
Now, she once again appears to have reiterated her desire to stay in Manchester, even if going back to the United States as a professional holds some appeal further down the road.
“[Playing in America] opened my eyes a little. [With Man Utd in the WSL] is the place I see myself developing in right now but I loved my time out in the United States. I got an experience like no other,” she told BBC Sport ahead of facing the world champion Americans in a sell-out friendly at Wembley later this week.
“I played with girls a few years older than me so I realised I had to get quicker, fitter, faster and stronger quickly to compete with them. In England we have more of a focus on the technical and tactical side of the game. When I went out there it was more physical and about strength and power.”
Russo isn’t the only English player to develop her game at an American college. It has been a not uncommon path in recent years, with England teammate Lotte Wubben-Moy at North Carolina at the same time, while Lucy Bronze also spent time there a decade earlier. Notable others, like West Ham defenders Grace Fisk and Lucy Parker, have played at different stateside colleges.
As far as Russo’s United contract is concerned, manager Marc Skinner has confirmed that talks with her and several others – including star full-back Ona Batlle – are ongoing.
“We are working behind the scenes. There is never a quick fix moment for any contract conversation. It’s a much more complex than a quick decision. We are working towards making sure we secure the players that we want,” Skinner explained.
“It’s never simple. Nothing is imminent, but those conversations are continuing.”
But what Skinner has also alluded to is refusing to wait on players who are delaying signing a contract and even selling them if suitable offers comes in. That ended up the case with Jackie Groenen, who was sold to Paris Saint-Germain last month after the WSL transfer window had already closed.
“Every player can be available at any point if everything is met at the right time,” he said.
“What I’m trying to stress there is, we are going to make sure that if players sign contracts, brilliant, if they don’t sign contracts, we’ll have people in places that our club will not stand still and always keep progressing.”
If Russo and United don’t come to an agreement over a new deal and she runs down her contract, she would be faced with joining a WSL rival or heading abroad next summer.