Arsenal captain Leah Williamson is staying in North London, signing a new contract with the club while Barcelona’s Mariona Caldentey has also reportedly accepted the club's offer.

Williamson, who also captains the England women's national football team, has spent the entirety of her pro career at Arsenal, in addition to being a lifelong fan of the Gunners. The defender has made 232 appearances for the club since 2014, stating in a press release that she's "very happy to be staying."

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Just Women’s Sports (@justwomenssports)

"Everyone knows what Arsenal means to me, but I think every time I sign a new contract, I feel that love ignite all over again," she said. "This is a place where I can still continue to grow, develop and be challenged."

Williamson last signed a new contract with Arsenal in 2022, before battling her way back from a season-ending ACL tear that kept her out of the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Arsenal teammate Stina Blackstenius has also re-signed with the club, while longtime striker Vivianne Miedema is set to depart

And the Gunners appear to have selected Miedema’s replacement, with Barcelona forward Mariona Caldentey reportedly joining the London side next season. The 28-year-old is set to announce the deal in the coming days, having previously been linked to the Washington Spirit. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Just Women’s Sports (@justwomenssports)

Caldentey had been with Barcelona since 2014, making 194 appearances and scoring 70 goals with the Spanish club. She's fresh off of winning a third Champions League trophy with Barcelona, and is also coming off of a Women's World Cup win with Spain last summer.

While Barcelona appeared to have confirmed Caldentey's move Tuesday afternoon, Arsenal has yet to release an official statement.

Leah Williamson is proud of everything England has accomplished so far at the 2023 World Cup.

While the Lionesses’ captain and star defender is missing the tournament due to an ACL tear, she has kept a close eye on the squad during its run to the semifinal round, she told Christen Press and Tobin Heath on their World Cup podcast “The RE-CAP Show.”

“When I look, I’m proud of the environment that’s been created there,” she said. And even though she knows that she has had a hand in it, there is a small part of her that feels as though the team’s run has “nothing to do” with her.

“Obviously I know that I’ll have played a part in that however small or large that be,” she said. “But also I feel it’s weird, it’s like I’m watching … It has nothing to do with me. If they win, it will have absolutely nothing to do with me. It’s that group of players that have found a way.”

That doesn’t stop Williamson from feeling “so proud” of her teammates.

“I want them to win,” she said. “Like I said before the tournament, I’d give my other ACL if it meant winning.”

Still, she would still love to see more goals being scored by the Lionesses, who have scored 10 goals in five matches so far — but six of those in one match against China in the group stage. That’s the last tweak she would like to see from the Lionesses as they head into the final stretch of the tournament.

“But the resilience, I think our stability as a team and how we’ve adapted,” she said, noting that despite losing players to injury before and during the tournament, the team has remained “rock solid.”

“It fills me with, ‘OK, let’s go and win!'” she continued. “But yeah, I just want to see them being closer together, a bit higher up and figuring out with a change of formation.”

The stakes get higher as the World Cup progresses, and she’s excited to watch the team play Australia.

“[Australia is] arguably the toughest test because I think it’ll bring out the best in our girls as well,” she said. “I know they’re sort of on fire and I do believe it’s one of those games you beat the horse in a semifinal you get a major lift going into a final.”

Arsenal have suffered another blow, as Laura Wienroither has become the fourth player on the squad to suffer an ACL tear in the last six months, the club announced Thursday.

She suffered the injury during Monday’s Champions League semifinal loss. The 24-year-old Austria national team player joins Leah Williamson, Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema on the Gunners’ roster of ACL injuries this season.

“I’m going to miss every single second of not being on the pitch with this special team,” Wienroither said in an Instagram post. “I’m so proud to be a part of this group and to share experiences with these girls — on and off the pitch.

“I’ll fight like hell to return as soon as I’m ready to get back to following my dream in red and white. This team is really special… I think we can all feel it. Until that time, I’m Arsenal and Austria’s biggest fan.”

Miedema, who tore her ACL in December, posted in support of her teammates: “At least we will all be in the gym together.”

But she also added: “ACL group is full now. Please no more.”

A number of the game’s biggest stars have suffered ACL injuries in recent months, leading to concern over what many regard as an injury crisis in women’s soccer. Mead has called for more research into injuries in the women’s game, and Portland Thorns forward Janine Beckie – who is also sidelined with an ACL tear – echoed those sentiments and called for more resources for women’s teams.

Earlier this season, women’s health specialist Dr. Emma Ross told Sky Sports that women athletes “are up to six times more likely to have a non-contact ACL injury than their male counterparts.”

She added that just 6% of studies in sports and exercise science are done solely on women, which translates into a lack of research and education on women’s injuries.

While some researchers attribute the injury crisis to the physiological affects of the menstrual cycle, including joints becoming less stable during the cycle, there is not enough evidence to draw a link between the menstrual cycle and injuries, Ross said.

“So we do have some information about loose joints,” she said, “but what we don’t have is the end step of whether that really does increase the risk for injury in female athletes.”

Dr. Katrine Okholm Kryger pointed to soccer cleats being geared toward men’s feet as an injury risk factor, as men’s and women’s feet differ in shape and volume. Many cleat manufacturers have begun to develop a women’s specific cleat, which should be available for this summer’s World Cup.

Aresenal is in the midst of its own internal review after its spate of ACL tears, manager Jonas Eidevall said following Wienroither’s injury. Eidevall also called for external cooperation between clubs, national teams and their governing bodies.

“We need to look at the complete picture and see which factors we can control,” he said. “We need to look at that internally to see what we can do better in the future. Some parts are internal and things we can control, then there are things we need external cooperation with. For example, the playing schedule or the cooperation between clubs and national teams or how and when competitions are played and how the international match calendar is done.

“There are bits that I think clubs can solve internally but there are a lot of things that require the whole world of football to cooperate, we need to do both.”

Two days after Leah Williamson was ruled out of the 2023 Women’s World Cup with an ACL tear, England dealt with another injury scare on Saturday when Lucy Bronze went down in the 65th minute of Barcelona’s Champions League semifinal versus Chelsea.

Bronze clutched her knee and then hopped off the field, a concerning sight. But she returned to the pitch at the conclusion of the game, which Barcelona won 1-0, to shake hands with Chelsea players.

In his post-match comments, Barcelona manager Jonatan Giraldez said Bronze was “feeling much better.”

“Initially Lucy was a bit worried about her injury, she felt her pain in her knee, but now she’s feeling much better about it,” Giraldez said, per SkySports.

“She felt pain in the knee but I think she’s fine right now. I was talking to her immediately after the game. It was scary at first but right now I think she’s fine.”

Bronze, 31, has a long history of knee injuries and subsequent surgeries, resulting in lingering pain.

“I’ve just got to play through it,” Bronze said last year. “There are plenty of players who are having to play through pain in their career and I’m now one of them.”

England has seen multiple players go down with injury in the last year, dampening the squad’s World Cup prospects. Beth Mead’s World Cup chances are doubtful after the 27-year-old ruptured her ACL in November, while Millie Bright’s status is also up-in-the-air.

England captain Leah Williamson will miss this summer’s World Cup after rupturing the ACL in her right knee in Arsenal’s match against Manchester United on Wednesday.

The club confirmed the news Thursday.

“Leah will now begin a period of rehabilitation and is set for an extended spell on the sidelines. She will undergo surgery in due course,” the team said in a statement.

“Everyone at Arsenal will be supporting Leah closely throughout the journey ahead and we would ask that her privacy is respected at this time.”

In a statement, Williamson said that while she has “made my peace with it” on the night that it happened, she would “need some quiet” to let the situation sink in.

“Unfortunately, the World Cup and Champions League dream is over for me and everyone will think that’s the main focus, but it’s the day to day of what I’m about to go through that is the most draining of my thoughts,” she wrote. “Ultimately, I think it’s just my time. In the past couple of years alone I have watched teammates beat serious illnesses and adversity with the biggest smiles on their faces.

“I haven’t had a day since last October when I’ve walked on to the pitch without a physical or mental question mark over me, and that’s professional sports. So now I have to listen to my body, give it what it needs and if everything happens for a reason, then we’ll see what road this turn sends me down.”

Williamson fell to the ground in the 12th minute of the 1-0 loss after appearing to catch her studs on the turf. She immediately signaled to the bench for treatment.

While she was able to walk off the pitch on her own, she did have to be helped down the tunnel to the locker room.

After the match, Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall called out the packed calendar and the field conditions as possible contributing factors.

“I think it’s going to continue here with the schedule we have and pitches like that, players are going to get injured,” he said. “That is something that we all need to improve on – the facilities where we play, so we can keep the players on the pitch.”

Williamson isn’t the first Arsenal player to go down with an injury this season. Both Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead are out with ACL injuries and likely are out of the World Cup, the former for the Netherlands and the latter for England. Kim Little is also out with a hamstring injury.

Arsenal is in the running for the Women’s Super League title and the Champions League title, but the growing injury list presents a problem for the club.

“Nobody wanted to see that,” Manchester United manager Marc Skinner said of Williamson’s injury. “I’ve just seen her inside, she seemed in really high spirits. We obviously wish it’s something minor and just a precaution. We wish her all the best. We all want to see her lead the Lionesses in the summer.”

With the severity of the injury revealed, though, Williamson will be relegated to supporting the national team from the sidelines. The 26-year-old defender played an integral role in leading the team to its first Euros title last July.

England saw its 30-match unbeaten streak snapped in a friendly against Australia earlier this month, but the Lionesses remain among the favorites to win this summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Without Williamson, though, their odds likely will take a hit.

For the first time ever, a women’s Finalissima was played Thursday, with England eking out a win over Brazil at Wembley Stadium in London.

The match sold out in January, nearly five months before the historic match, which pitted the CONMEBOL champion against the UEFA champion. The crowd of 83,132 ranks among the highest in women’s soccer history.

The England women’s national team entered as the favorite to win, having gone unbeaten in its previous 29 matches. Brazil, meanwhile, was coming off back-to-back losses against the USWNT and Canada at the SheBelieves Cup.

Still, both sides came ready to compete.

England’s Ella Toone provided the first strike in the 23rd minute to put the home team ahead, and it seemed like that might stand as the lone goal. But Brazil’s Andressa Alves equalized in extra time at the close of the second half, which sent the game to penalties.

The foot of Euro legend Chloe Kelly provided the deciding goal, sealing England’s 4-2 win in the penalty shootout.

Even before the match, though, the teams recognized the weight of the moment.

“It’s a great occasion,” England manager Sarina Wiegman told BBC Sports. “There will be 90,000 people, so it’s going to be a really exciting environment and two teams who want to play football with a very good history in football.”

Brazil manager Pia Sundhage, who coached the U.S. women’s national team from 2008-12, is excited for the match. She’s also excited to go up against Wiegman, who led Netherlands to the 2019 World Cup final, then led the Lionesses to their first-ever Euro title.

“I’m so appreciative and really happy to play against one of the best teams in the world with the best coach in the world,” Sundhage said. “When I was young, we didn’t have the players to look up to. And now you can mention a lot of great players and great role models and great coaches. This is the time of my life.”

Just three Finalissimas have taken place in total, but the previous three were on the men’s side. The most recent came last year as Argentina beat Italy at Wembley. Following that match, the plans came together for a women’s match this year.

“It is going to be a special night with all these people here. I feel special to have this opportunity,” Brazil captain Rafaelle Souza said. “I played in the Olympics with 70,000 people and it was amazing.

“This game will be important not just for women’s football but for me as a player. I will tell my child I played at Wembley in front of 90,000 and it will be special for me.”

Following their historic 2022 Euros win, the England Lionesses have reaped the benefits.

The stars of that squad — most notably, Leah Williamson, Chloe Kelly and Beth Mead — have graced the covers of magazines like Grazia and Hello!, done advertisements for brands like McDonald’s and presented awards.

“It feels like I’m managing a celebrity more than a footballer at the minute,” one player agent told The Athletic. “They’re demanding just as much — possibly even more — money than the male players. Brands and celebrities are passing on their numbers.”

According to The Athletic, one of the players is so popular that she needs three full-time staff members managing her commitments.

The players’ earnings have also grown as a result. Some agents described offers in the six figures, whereas before the tournament, “it wouldn’t have been anywhere near that.” Another player reportedly had to turn down a brand offering 5,000 pounds.

“After the Euros, our feet didn’t touch the ground for months,” the agent continued. “We had so many requests from so many different areas — areas that previously we’d been trying to push doors down in.

“Two days after the final, we booked in a day with our players where we had to sit down with pages and pages of requests. We had loads of big brands, including some that hadn’t done much work in women’s football, wanting to work with them.”

The increased popularity of the players is evidenced by their social media followings. Ella Toone gained 158,000 followers in the seven days after the final, while Leah Williamson’s account grew by 88,000 and Chloe Kelly’s by 68,000.

Nearly every player reported double-digit increases in their follower counts throughout the tournament.

Doors continue to open for players, including for those who didn’t play as many minutes.

“The players that scored the most goals and got the most assists are always going to get more attention,” an agent told The Athletic. “But it’s helped elevate players who haven’t got as many minutes to a point where they’re able to stand on their own two feet as Lionesses and get commercial partnerships. It helps them to get in the room. More brands are open to working in women’s football.”

England star Leah Williamson called the Women’s Super League to be “the best league in the world” to watch as a fan but called for even more investment.

Speaking with BBC Sport ahead of the league’s opening weekend, the Arsenal defender discussed the increasing popularity of the WSL, which has seen record ticket sales for the 2022 season on the heels of the Lionesses’ Euros win.

“If I was a fan who wanted to watch a league, this would be the best league in the world without a shadow of a doubt. I think in terms of talent and the players that we attract, we’re doing really well,” Williamson said. “We want the best players to come and play in this league. I think it’s the most competitive league in the world, which to me makes it the best one to watch.

“The product isn’t the same as men’s football. Nobody’s asking for it to be equal in every aspect.”

As the league starts a new season, though, it does so without some big name players like Keira Walsh, who set a new women’s transfer record with her departure to Barcelona. Fellow England teammate Lucy Bronze also signed with Barcelona in the offseason from Manchester City, while Georgia Stanway left City for Bayern Munich.

For Williamson, the WSL has got better teams across the board – not just at the upper levels – but she would like to see more clubs in England investing in players.

“Other leagues might not be great or as consistent as ours with the teams, but the top teams are so good,” she said. “We definitely have a long way to go. I’d like to think that the clubs here are investing, but the level of investment in Europe is 10 times higher than it is here.

“I think the gap is a product of investment. A lack of investment here for so long, potentially. And quality of players. The quality of players in those teams is unbelievable.”

On the heels of England’s win, investment is at an all-time high, and Williamson would like to see that extend beyond the short term.

“It’s about more and more partners that are getting involved for the long run, not just for the short run. That’s where we’ll see a big boost of investment and a big boost of interest,” she told BBC Sport.

“We saw so many people jumping on the bandwagon,” she continued. “Are you going to stay on? Are you going to join us for this journey? Because it’s going to be one hell of a ride.”

The England women’s national soccer team has been given training priority over the men’s team as it prepares to host the upcoming UEFA European Championship.

Women’s captain Leah Williams applauded the decision, saying that the women’s game was shown “respect.” She added that, as a result of the decision, the Lionesses will be better prepared for July’s Euros than any other major tournament before.

“If you’d have gone back a couple of years this wouldn’t have been the case, and that’s just factual, so the fact that is happening now is a big step in the right direction.” Williamson said. “This is something that’s important. Women’s football is on a journey.

“The respect that we’ve been given and the respect that our tournament has been given, bearing in mind we have a Euros in the summer, and the preparation and the facilities that we have access to — year-on-year you just notice an increase.

“And it comes down to things like money, obviously, but also it’s that level of respect the women’s game is getting, from the work that we’re doing. There’s no stone left unturned in these preparations.”

The team’s first full training session of the summer took place on Sir Bobby Charlton pitch, while the men’s team trained on a lower-tier pitch. The men’s U-21 and women’s U-19 sides will also train at the facility this week.

According to Telegraph Sport, the men’s team staff felt that the Women’s Euros tournament should take precedence.

Despite the training sessions, though, not everyone has viewed the treatment of the July tournament as a win for equality. In April, Iceland captain Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir called some of the venue choices “shocking” and “embarrassing.”

The venues’ capacities range from Manchester City Academy Stadium to Wembley. The final at Wembley has already sold out, as have at least eight other matches in the tournament.

Arsenal defender Leah Williamson has been named the permanent captain of the England women’s national team, replacing Steph Houghton.

Houghton had led the team since 2014 but over the past year battled a number of injuries. In a statement, Houghton called it “the greatest honor and privilege” to captain the national team.

“Sarina and the England staff have been hugely supportive but with the injuries, I understand and respect Sarina’s decision to name a new captain,” she continued. “The captaincy is being passed on to a very deserving and driven leader in Leah Williamson, with all the attributes an England captain needs to be successful and I have no doubt she will be.

“I continue to work hard with my rehabilitation in trying to make the squad for this summer’s home European Championship.”

Williamson first wore the captain’s armband for the senior team last September during two World Cup qualifiers. She previously had captained the U17, U19 and U20 teams.

“I think it’s the biggest honor in football,” Williamson said. “To even have my name associated with it for the time that it has been and obviously now is very, very special and something I’ll never take for granted.”

The defender will captain the team during this summer’s European Championships, which will be played on home soil. The final at Wembley Stadium is already sold out.

“Steph Houghton is one of this country’s all-time greats and to follow in her footsteps – and all of those special names who have led the team in the past – means so much,” Williamson said of her former captain. “Although I will be wearing the armband, I know we have a squad full of leaders who share my pride and passion in playing for our country.”