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NWSL MVP finalist Debinha signs with Kansas City Current

North Carolina Courage midfielder Debinha was among the NWSL MVP finalists in 2022. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

One of the top free agents in the NWSL has a destination: Debinha is headed to Kansas City.

The NWSL MVP finalist spent her first six seasons in the league with the North Carolina Courage, and she entered the offseason as one of the most sought-after free agents. The Current have signed her to a multi-year deal through the 2024 season, with an option for a third year.

“As a professional athlete, I always want to get better and to be on a competitive team that fights for titles, with excellent professionals,” Debinha said in a statement. “I’m sure it will help me in that goal and Kansas City showed that last season.”

The Brazilian national team member also noted that Kansas City’s plans, which include a new stadium and training facilities, “left me really motivated.”

“All of this made me want to be part of it and made me think about being here today,” she continued. “I’m happy for this new journey that is just beginning.”

Debinha joined the NWSL in 2017 as a member of the Courage. She helped the team to three straight NWSL championship appearances, as well as two titles and three consecutive NWSL Shields.

In 2019, she was named NWSL Championship MVP after scoring the game’s opening goal.

The 31-year-old midfielder has been named Challenge Cup MVP twice, including in 2022, and owns the record for most goals all-time in the tournament with nine.

She finished the regular season last year with a career-high 12 goals through 18 matches. That total ranked third in the league behind Golden Boot winner Alex Morgan (15 goals) and NWSL MVP Sophia Smith (14 goals). Debinha also had four assists, which also put her among the best in the league.

“We are thrilled to welcome Debinha to Kansas City,” Current co-owners Angie and Chris Long said. “Debinha is one of the most talented, accomplished, and well-known players in the world. Her name is synonymous with excellence. We can’t wait for Kansas City to have the special opportunity to watch Debinha play and cheer her on.”

One of the biggest free agents of the offseason, Kansas City knows what it’s getting in Debinha.

“Obviously, she was sought after by I think just about everyone,” Current general manager Camille Levin Ashton told The Athletic. “There was a lot of competition for her. What makes this really special for us, and a big statement for us, is that she had all those options and chose to come here to Kansas City and be a part of what we’re building.

“We continue to build on the success that we had last year, obviously falling short, and she’s a winner. She wants to bring championships to Kansas City.”

But the signing is also huge for the league as a whole, as reports also had linked Debinha to Arsenal, as well as Barcelona, PSG and Manchester United, according to Rob Pratley and ATA Football.

As other players have made moves to clubs offering more money, it’s becoming increasingly clear that NWSL clubs will have to start forking over more cash in order to keep players.

“Our value of her, and what we honestly believe the global soccer community values her, as she is one of the best players in this league and in the world — we think that the salary we provided her reflects that,” Levin Ashton said.

One other NWSL club made a serious offer to Debinha, The Athletic’s Steph Yang reported: the Orlando Pride. The offer “would have made Debinha one of, if not the highest-paid player in the league,” Yang reported last week.

The same source that gave details of the Pride’s offer indicated that Debinha was more interested in Europe, including the boost that the Champions League could provide to her player profile. But, according to Levin Ashton, that potential move never came up in talks with Kansas City.

“I think everyone understands the value (of Champions League) and that players do want to play in Champions League,” Levin Ashton said. “At the end of the day, when we look at the NWSL as a whole, this league is the most competitive league in the world. It has been, and that hasn’t changed. Players that want to be the best and want to continue to get better and prove themselves, being in the NWSL, you have to prove yourself week after week, game after game.”

Debinha’s agent, Benito Pedace of SOW Sports, told The Athletic that the decision to remain in the NWSL came alongside what the midfielder views as new challenges alongside “great structure.”

“Not everyone entered the final stretch of decision-making,” Padace told The Athletic, “and she ended up choosing to stay in the league, knowing that she will have new challenges, will have a great structure for her to continue evolving and doing what she loves most, which is playing football at a high level in a league she knows and knows that every season the teams get more and more competitive.”

The Current will aim to make another run to the championship game in the 2023 season, though they’ve lost the element of surprise. A number of blockbuster signings have bolstered the team’s lineup, including Morgan Gautrat and Vanessa DiBernardo via free agency. They’ve also re-signed defenders Alex Loera, Hailie Mace and Kate Del Fava.