Alessia Russo fully focused on England after ‘tough’ summer of transfer talk

Alessia Russo fully focused on England after ‘tough’ summer of transfer talk

Alessia Russo admits she has found being the subject of transfer talk “tough” and is glad to be in camp with England focusing on this summer’s World Cup.

It was announced two weeks ago that Russo would be leaving Manchester United on the completion of her contract at the end of June, something she described at the time as the “hardest decision I’ve ever had to make”.

The 24-year-old has been linked with Arsenal, who had a world-record bid for her rejected in January.

Russo in action for Manchester United (Simon Marper/PA)
Alessia Russo has been linked with Arsenal (Simon Marper/PA)

Asked how much of a distraction transfer speculation had been, Russo said: “Towards the end of the season it was tough and then the summer has been tough.

“But that’s football, that’s the state of the women’s game. I just turned it off, took a break on holiday and completely switched off with all my friends and family.

“Then coming back into an environment like this is perfect because you’re competing, you have a huge tournament ahead and my full focus is on England.

“You’ve just got to get things sorted, and there’s kind of no nice time to sort things like that out.

“But now I’m here it’s nice to have full focus on an absolutely massive tournament coming up.”

Russo’s departure from United is set to see her no longer playing at club level alongside England midfielder Ella Toone, and she said: “It’s hard, she’s my best friend and will be forever, but that is football.

“And we were friends before we played at United together, we’ve been friends since we were 12 or 13, so I know the friendship is for life now and she’ll definitely be one of my bridesmaids one day!”

Both Russo and Toone produced memorable moments as substitutes during England’s triumphant Euros campaign on home soil last summer – a standout one from Russo being her back-heeled effort against Sweden in the semi-finals, one of four goals she scored at the tournament as she came off the bench to replace the now-retired Ellen White in each match.

Russo (left) and Ella Toone with the trophy after England won the Euros last summer (Danny Lawson/PA)
Russo, left, and Ella Toone with the trophy after England won the Euros last summer (Danny Lawson/PA)

A year on, she is heading into the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, which gets under way on July 20, having made seven starts for Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses across 2022-23, helped United achieve a club-best finish of second in the Women’s Super League and been named the division’s player of the year.

Russo, who has stressed “it’s going well but there’s lots more to come” from her, said: “I went into the Euros wanting to enjoy every moment, make sure I soaked it all in and not leave with any regrets. I think I did exactly that and that’s my same message going into this tournament.

“The competition is going to be so high out there but if I just go in, relax and enjoy it and never take a day out there for granted, then hopefully it will make me play my best football.

“That’s what people ask me about, that (back-heeled) goal – no, you probably won’t see it again, and that’s OK. But it was just because we felt like we could play with our instincts and we feel when you’re a little kid.

“That’s what makes this team so special – when you go out on the pitch you feel comfortable and confident. That’s ultimately what wins us important games.

“I think there’ll be plenty more of that this summer, people feeling like they’re able to try something. That comes from Sarina too, putting trust in the players.

“There’s always a target on England’s back for football. I think we feel really good. It (the Euros) was an incredible summer, we saw what we can do, and now it’s time to go and produce again on the world stage.”