England forward Nikita Parris is on the brink of signing for Arsenal, two years after leaving the Women’s Super League for Lyon.
Parris, 27, who played for Manchester City until her 2019 move to France, is due to undergo a medical with Arsenal in the next couple of days and Telegraph Sport understands is very close to agreeing a deal with the London side.
The news comes after a successful time in France with Lyon, which included winning the Champions League in 2020. Last season, Parris scored 13 goals in 20 league appearances for the seven-time European champions, but her side crashed out of the Champions League in the quarter-finals and lost out on another domestic title to Paris Saint-Germain.
Parris’s return to England will see her join her third club in the women’s top division, after spells at both Everton and City. At City she enjoyed a prolific scoring record, which saw her win the 2019 FWA Women’s Footballer of the Year award.
A report in the Guardian last month had linked Parris to Arsenal as part of a straight swap for striker and WSL all-time top-scorer Vivianne Miedema, who would replace her at Lyon. But there remains uncertainty about Miedema’s future, with her contract at Arsenal set to expire next summer.
Assuming Parris’s deal goes through, she will definitely join compatriot Leah Williamson at Arsenal. Both Parris and Williamson are set to star in Great Britain’s Olympic team in Tokyo this summer, and on Wednesday Williamson committed to staying with the club she first signed for aged nine, ending months of suspense and speculation.
Her contract at Arsenal had been due to expire this summer and the 24-year-old defender had been linked with moves to European giants Lyon, PSG and Wolfsburg. She joked to reporters on Wednesday that she “made us wait for it”, and confirmed Arsenal remained a club with an ambition that matched her own: “It was time to make a football decision and not be blinded by my absolute love and affection for the football club.
“In the end, my football development was my priority and I feel like Arsenal is still the place for me to become the player that I want to be. The ambition of the club I still believe is top and I can’t wait to see what we can achieve.”
Return of one of the WSL’s best ever would be major coup for Arsenal
Parris to Arsenal would spark the return of one of the WSL’s best ever goal-scorers – and a huge coup for an Arsenal side which struggled to compete with Chelsea and Manchester City in the league last season. Her arrival would also suggest that the rumours linking Miedema with a move away from North London are likely true, as Arsenal try to cash in on their star player ahead of her contract expiring next summer.
Parris’s 49-goal WSL tally puts her third in the all-time list behind Miedema and City’s Ellen White, including a 19-goal season in 2018-19. Despite competition for places in the Lyon squad, Parris held her own in her two seasons in France, but will likely be looking to cement her spot as Arsenal’s main attacking threat.
The move is not without its risks after all. Arsenal are still without a new manager, after Joe Montemurro’s departure to Juventus, so the club is very much in a transitional moment.
The third-place finish in the WSL last season means that Arsenal will also have to play two rounds of early qualifying in the new-look women’s Champions League, ahead of reaching the group stage. Though they will be heavy favourites to progress, Parris’s move is a sign of her faith in the club to deliver in Europe – especially considering the club she is leaving behind had a near-monopoly on the Champions League trophy when she joined in 2019.
Williamson is showing similar faith in committing to Arsenal, and told reporters that their third-place WSL finish in May – which secured their Champions League spot – was a “massive” part of her decision-making.
On Wednesday she revealed she had put pen to paper on her new deal before having spoken to the new manager, but was reassured after she had “honest conversations” with the club about identifying “where we have fallen short a little bit in the last couple of seasons, when we’ve not maybe competed right at the top of the league”.
“The club have given me so much over the years,” she added, “it’s my time probably to show my support back to them, in terms of being here to see that through.”