Portland Thorns FC have filed an NWSL discovery claim on French midfielder Amandine Henry, news first reported by Caitlin Murray.
Henry first declared her interest in a move to the National Women’s Soccer League back in November. She purportedly wants to be paid more by two-time European champions Lyon, the club for which 26-year-old Henry has played since 2007.
A deal is nowhere near finalized, but this makes very real recent rumors of Henry possibly heading to Portland. Undoubtedly, her public contemplation of a move away from Lyon was at least in some part a bargaining chip to send a message to the club that yes, in fact, it could lose one of the best players in the world if it does not pay up. But her interest also seems to be genuine (and to be the catalyst here).
Henry, who won the Silver Ball at the 2015 World Cup as the second-best player behind Carli Lloyd, spoke glowingly of women’s soccer in the United States back in November, when she also mentioned Germany and England in a separate interview.
“The United States is a notch above,” Henry told foot365. “There, there is a true recognition, we speak of women’s football as the first sport. It is a culture.”
Whether or not Henry actually lands with the Thorns — who have a league-high six international roster spots for 2016 after various trades — remains to be seen. That would likely be decided in the coming weeks.
For those unfamiliar with the very Americanized idea of ‘discovery rights,’ a team can put in a discovery claim on any player with whom they have established contact, even if that player is under contract somewhere else in the world. It does not mean that the player is signed, just that said NWSL team has league-level rights to negotiate with the player.
Where things get interesting, per the discovery rules (read them in full here), is that if a second team puts in discovery rights, the first team claiming discovery has 14 days to get a deal done before the discovery rights would go to a second team. Henry very likely won’t go anywhere except Portland if she comes to the NWSL, but a second team could apply some pressure to Portland through that method. (But again, that second team would have to establish some sort of dialogue with Henry first, and with a salary cap, every team is playing with similar amounts of money. Where Portland wins is its global appeal as women’s soccer’s best-supported club and glowing reviews from respected Europeans such as Nadine Angerer and Vero Boquete.)
Henry is a two-way midfielder who is one of the best players in the world. If she were to sign with Portland, she would by far be the most important NWSL signing in the league’s short history — a top player in the peak of her career likely taking a pay cut to play in the United States (the NWSL has a salary cap, unlike the free market in Europe).
As a reminder of what Henry is capable of, here’s her goal against Mexico at the 2015 World Cup:
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