Summer transfer window: Grading big signings in women's soccer

Why Manchester United will struggle to replace their four departing stars (2:28)

Emily Keogh explains why Manchester United are heading for a tough summer as they prepare for the new WSL season. (2:28)

Transfer records were broken across the women's game in 2023-24 as the Women's Super League (WSL) saw 226 transfers -- a higher level of activity than each of the previous three seasons, according to Deloitte.

There were some pretty big deals as well, as Mayra Ramirez's €450,000 January move to Chelsea from Levante broke the women's transfer world record, before NWSL side Bay FC paid Madrid CFF €735,000 to bring in Racheal Kundananji in February.

Kundananji's move came after a January transfer window that had seen international spending in the women's game reach an all-time high, according to FIFA, with clubs around the world collectively trading approximately €1.96m in transfer fees -- which roughly equates to a 150% rise from the winter of 2023.

So will that continue? Here are grades for all the major confirmed transfers in the women's game, with each listed in order of date and then highest fee.

All fees are reported unless confirmed with an asterisk.

July 7

Alisha Lehmann

Aston Villa: C
Juventus: B

For as much as Lehmann's move to Juventus should be about football, the noise around her transfer has been about her relationship with Douglas Luiz, who made the move to Turin last week. Never quite having the same spark she showed as a teen, Serie A could yet help Lehmann rediscover her better form. but how she'll gel with her new team will be a work in progress.

Signed from West Ham after a middling loan at Everton, Lehmann has some strong moments in claret and blue, but she all too often fell into the trap of inconsistency and overthinking on the ball. With two years left on her deal, Villa have at least recouped a sum they can reinvest as the team finds its footing under new boss Robert de Pauw. -- Sophie Lawson

Sandy Baltimore

Paris Saint-Germain: B-
Chelsea: B

On paper, Chelsea didn't need any more attackers, but signing Baltimore is less about the individual signing and more about the new [Sonia] Bompastor era at the Blues as the French manager continues to put her spin on the squad. Baltimore was a player who turned heads and earned plenty of praise when she first broke onto the senior stage, only for turmoil at PSG to dampen her impact and growth. It would be no surprise, then, to see Baltimore hit the ground running under Bompastor.

A Parisien through and through, Baltimore leaves PSG almost a decade after joining the academy, having made over 200 appearances in red and blue. Once again, PSG are in a transitional stage and losing a young player -- especially on a free transfer -- will sting the club and although most of the other seven players who've already left only played bit parts, Baltimore was a regular starter. -- SL

July 5

Vivianne Miedema

Arsenal: C
Man City: A+

Despite Miedema detailing that it was a mutual decision for her and Arsenal to part ways after seven seasons, losing the WSL's all-time top goal scorer on a free transfer to their direct rivals is not great business from the Gunners. It may allows the team to introduce another attacker who fits Jonas Eidevall's style of play but though she has not played much football over the past two seasons due to an ACL injury, once she is fully fit Arsenal may regret letting her go.

For City, it is a monumental grab. Adding the league's best finisher to a squad that already boasts immense talent and skill is quite a statement. City came agonisingly close to their first WSL title since 2016 last season, and with Miedema added to the likes of Lauren Hemp and Bunny Shaw, City will be challenging for the title next season. They are gaining an exceptional striker and a world-class attacking midfielder, making their depth for next season look seriously scary. -- Emily Keogh

July 3

Melanie Leupolz

Chelsea: B+
Real Madrid: B+

Signed on a free back in 2020, Leupolz's time with Chelsea wasn't all smooth sailing from COVID 19-impacted seasons to pregnancy and niggling injuries, yet when she played well, she played very well. Indeed, last season she made a big impact as Chelsea grappled their way through an arduous season. It felt like she would have more of impact this season but Chelsea will at least be glad to receive a fee for the transfer.

After a raft of departures, Real Madrid have been swift to plug the holes and, although not necessarily a flashy signing, Leupolz brings key experience from her time in both the Frauen-Bundesliga and WSL. Having shown good form over the course of last season, the Germany midfielder is primed to hit the ground running in Spain as Real continue to try to solidify their own identity.

Griedge Mbock

Lyon: B
Paris Saint-Germain: A

Mbock was reportedly close to signing a new deal before a U-turn, so Lyon might still be scratching their heads as to what happened. But there can be no question of how important Mbock was to the team since her 2015 move from Guingamp. She will be remembered fondly at Lyon, even though she's gone to their nearest rivals.

Having seen so many of their key players depart for Lyon over the years, PSG have pulled off a coup. More than just a mini-victory over their rivals, PSG have secured the services of one of the best centre-backs in the world, who after a few years blighted by injury, finally looked to be getting back to her best last season.

July 2

Olivia Smith

Sporting CP: C-
Liverpool: A+

At 19, Smith is regarded as one of the best talents coming through the Canada setup, and her potential is sky-high. She made her World Cup debut at 18 and some months later featured in the W Gold Cup, winning the Young Player of the Tournament award. This was regarded as her breakout moment on the international stage, but Smith just missed out on a place in Bev Preistmen's 18-player squad for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Still, having only joined Sporting in 2023 on a three-year deal, Liverpool's decision to pay a reported club-record fee to sign her is a big call. Voted Sporting's Player of the Season for netting 13 goals in 18 appearances, Smith was key for the side fell two points short of the title to Benfica. But though Sporting would have struggled to hold on to the Canada international for long, given the economic deficits facing the club, losing such a vital player will leave a gaping hole.

Liverpool have completed a marquee signing that will only help the progress they made last season when the club finished fourth. Smith was reportedly Liverpool's primary target this window and will give them a major boost -- EK.

Tabitha Chawinga

Wuhan Jianghan University: C+
Olympique Lyonnais: A+

Wuhan signed Chawinga when Jiangsu Suning (as they once were) pulled their funding of the women's team. But, other than a brief spell in 2021, Wuhan opted to send the Malawi attacker on back-to-back loans, suggesting a permanent move could be in the offing this summer.

Often rumoured with a move for Chawinga, Les Fenottes finally got their woman and signed her to a three-year deal. Having spent the last season on loan at PSG, Chawinga is a well-known quantity in France, as well as Lyon -- her last action as a PSG player was scoring a goal at the Parc OL against them. But at a time of transition for Lyon -- with their European crown having slipped and manager Sonia Bompastor having left -- Chawinga is a statement signing who will add yet more goals to Lyon's already robust attack. It should remind the rest of Europe that they remain ones to beat. -- SL.

Alba Redondo

Levante: C
Real Madrid: A

It's going to be a tough summer for Levante, as the team have already lost key players from both attack and defence, while the financial woes of the club are well known. It's a big blow to lose Redondo too, as she broke through as a teenager and has rarely looked out of her depth. While her goals were vital, the team failed to kick on and make a larger impact domestically or in the Champions League during their best years.

With Real Madrid not always convincing in front of goal last season, Redondo's move should be the instant solution for Las Blancas as they look to solidify and challenge in Europe as she is one of the best goal scorers in Spain. -- SL

Dominique Janssen

Wolfsburg: B
Man United: A-

Losing Janssen on a free transfer after the exits of Pajor and Oberdorf (see below) is not ideal; however, Wolfsburg certainly have the depth to make up for the defender's exit. The side are heading into a transitional period, so being able to bring in a younger defender and offer them minutes helps to prepare for the future.

Janssen is 29 and a seasoned professional and accomplished winner. With Arsenal, she collected the League Cup, FA Cup and WSL title; at Wolfsburg she won the league twice and the Polka Cup three times. She is an impressive signing for a United side who have struggled to retain and attract players. But coach Skinner will need to learn how to rotate Janssen with his current favoured defenders in order to get the best out of her. Still, the signing fits United's needs, especially given former captain Katie Zelem's exit, and a leader with the mentality and experience of winning will be crucial as Skinner looks to rebuild. -- EK.

July 1

Ewa Pajor

VfL Wolfsburg: B
Barcelona: A

After a forgettable season, this summer is providing little respite for Wolfsburg and, although they landed €500,000, Pajor had been a key figure (much like Oberdorf) during her time in Lower Saxony and her goals (136 in 196 appearances) will be hard to replace.

Amid rising transfer fees, women's football is starting to follow the pattern of the men's game, with goal scorers usually the players who go for more. And even though Pajor's reported release clause would have been barely thinkable a few years ago, Barcelona will feel they've got a good deal. A natural goal scorer who fulfils their greatest need, the Poland international comes in with key experience and will undoubtedly pay her transfer fee back in goals. -- SL

Lena Oberdorf

VfL Wolfsburg: C
Bayern Munich: A+

Signed from SGS Essen four years ago, Oberdorf quickly became an intrinsic part of the Wolfsburg squad, established herself in the Germany national team and marked herself as one of the best players of her generation. Although although Wolfsburg have received a decent fee, losing Oberdorf to their biggest domestic rivals will take a long time to get over.

Oberdorf's move to Bayern looks set to tip the scales in Germany firmly in favour of the Bavarians and they got her for an absolute steal. Although €450,000 is a huge fee in women's football, the midfielder is 22 years old with a sky-high ceiling, so there is little question Bayern got a great deal by activating her release clause. -- SL

Kinga Szemik

Stade de Reims: B
West Ham United: B+

Szemik was a consistent force between the sticks for Reims, having locked down the starting spot last season, and played every minute of their league campaign. Although Reims made some money on the deal, there is concern they are more of a feeder club than a challenger.

In need of an experienced goalkeeper after parting ways with Mackenzie Arnold, West Ham have clearly done their scouting. Unlikely to be a transfer that sends shockwaves through the sport, the Hammers have nonetheless found themselves a very good shot-stopper and the Poland international will do well. -- SL

Justine Kielland

Brann: B
VfL Wolfsburg: A

Wolfsburg's history with young Norwegians is a little hit and miss, but as the club lean further into developing younger players, the move comes at just the right time for the 21-year-old midfielder -- not least with a mini-rebuild required in Lower Saxony.

Having performed so well in the Champions League, it was natural that Brann were going to be fielding offers for some of their better players. And, although Kielland leaves a hole to be filled, the team will be glad to have recouped some money from the transfer. -- SL

Sofie Svava

Real Madrid: C
Olympique Lyonnais: B+

Picking Svava up on a free means Lyon aren't taking much a gamble on the 23-year-old Denmark international. But the defender has fallen off the radar a little bit and will need to try and get back her best. A change of location could be just the tonic.

Svava is the latest in a long line of signings who have failed to catch fire for Real Madrid. Although they didn't have to break the bank when she signed from Wolfsburg, as she joined on a free, the sheer number of failed singings point to a wider issue at the club. -- SL

Emma Koivisto

Liverpool: B
AC Milan: B

The rebuild for Milan starts again. The have team muddled through their last few seasons and stability is needed, so Koivisto is a good place to start as she has shown consistency over her senior career and will strengthen both defence and offence.

Signed on a free from Brighton, Koivisto was quietly one of Liverpool's best players over her two years on Merseyside, helping the team take their first crucial steps upon their return to the WSL and setting them up for a strong finish in their second season. Allowed to leave after the expiration of her contract this summer, the Finland international is one Liverpool are going to miss. -- SL

Nikola Karczewska

Tottenham Hotspur: D
AC Milan: B

When Karczewska first signed for Spurs in 2022, then-head coach Rehanne Skinner spoke about how much the young Poland forward could add to the team. But, after a first season disrupted by injury and a second spent on loan in the Frauen-Bundesliga, the attacker has left without much fuss.

She joins a Milan side that aren't short of attacking options, but few of her new teammates have scored at any kind of consistent rate. A reliable forward was high up the list of needs for Milan this summer and, having scored consistently over spells in France and Germany (as well as her native Poland), the attacker should have little problem settling in in Serie A. In fact, Karczewska is likely to go down as one of the savvier signings of the summer. -- SL

Mary Earps

Manchester United: C

Earps' decision over her future was always destined to be a high-profile topic of discussion. Last summer, WSL rivals Arsenal were prepared to pay a world-record fee to sign the 31-year-old England goalkeeper, but United refused to let her go. Now, as Alessia Russo did last summer, Earps has left on a free transfer.

United boss Marc Skinner not only loses a crucial player but also one who could have landed the biggest transfer fee, especially after her rise to fame following the Euros and World Cup. If she had stayed with United, it would have suggested the club's internal issues were not as severe as they seemed. However, her departure only underscores the club's struggle to retain key players now.

For PSG, Earps represents an incredible acquisition, especially on a free transfer. It also keeps Earps in Europe, meaning she is able to compete to retain her starting spot for England. Wanting to play in the Champions League and win silverware was a driving force for the goalkeeper, making it a mutually beneficial transfer. -- EK

Mariona Caldentey

Barcelona: B-
Arsenal: A-

Mariona won it all with Barcelona: six Liga F titles, three Women's Champions Leagues, six Spanish Cups, four Spanish Super Cups and six Catalan Cups. Oh, and a World Cup with Spain. At 28, after 302 appearances and 114 goals, a move away from Barcelona makes sense given she was with the club for a decade.

Arsenal are getting a proven winner who knows what it takes to be the best on both the domestic and international stage. Mariona would have had the pick of clubs but choosing Arsenal is a testament to their determination to win the WSL. Having bid farewell to Vivianne Miedema, Arsenal were in need of a goal scorer and now their forwards are all between 28-30 years old. Nonetheless, it is a great signing for the Gunners and a big loss for Barcelona. -- EK

Filippa Angeldahl

Manchester City: B
Real Madrid: A-

Having spent three years with City, it was not a big surprise that the Sweden international chose to make a change. While she has been a key player for manager Gareth Taylor, Angeldahl was not getting the game time she wanted, often dropping to the bench, so naturally when her contract expired, a move was on the cards.

The transfer frees up space for City to bring in another midfielder who better fits Taylor's playing style, but it is a signing weighted towards the benefit of Real Madrid, who have already announced the departures of seven key players. -- EK

Ellie Roebuck

Manchester City: B
Barcelona: B

Part of the Man City setup since 2015, Roebuck stepped up for the first team when needed in 2018, playing a vital role for for five years until falling out of favour last season. Now surplus to requirements, her contract was allowed to run down and saw her make a free transfer to Liga F.

Barcelona have taken a bit of a gamble on Roebuck, with the England goalkeeper not having featured since the 2022-23 season. She is likely to be an understudy to first-choice Cata Coll, but comes in with a point to prove and a hunger to impress. -- SL

Lineth Beerensteyn

Juventus: B
Wolfsburg: A-

Having filled a role for Juventus during her time in Italy, Beerensteyn's time in Serie A had naturally run its course and, having been signed on a free transfer, she left on one too.

It's set to be a summer of change for Wolfsburg. With a number of younger players on their books, trying to replace the likes of Pajor and Overdorf is tough, so bringing in experienced attacker Beerensteyn is a step in the right direction. The Netherlands international already has experience of the Frauen-Bundesliga after five years at Bayern Munich. -- SL

Kosovare Asllani

AC Milan: B-
London City Lionesses: A

At 34, Asllani's best days are no longer in front of her, but she can still impact games and brings a wealth of experience. For the Lionesses, the Sweden international is a statement signing and one that will help guide the team through the start of their new era. It was designed to get people talking and, on that score, she is already having the desired effect.

An important player in her first season with Milan, Asllani's impact waned over her second season, reflecting the general struggles of the team. Letting her go at the end of her contract was best for both parties. -- SL