Alessia Russo says the decision to leave Manchester United for Arsenal last summer was not an easy one to make, but her gut feeling after speaking to people in and around the club helped make up her mind.
The 24-year-old ended a three-year association with United to join Arsenal on a free transfer, months after the Red Devils had rejected two world record transfer bids worth in excess of the £400,000 Barcelona paid Manchester City for Keira Walsh in September 2022.
Russo is still finding her feet on the pitch in north London, having scored just twice in eight WSL games for Arsenal, but things couldn’t be more settled for the England international off it.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Guardian, Russo has admitted that she felt it was the right time to take the next step in her career, detailing the feeling she had about joining Arsenal after everything they’ve done in the women’s game.
“I felt so comfortable. I’ve got some of my best friends in Manchester. I know I’ve still got them as friends for life, which is great. But people go through it all the time: you have to step out of your comfort zone,” Russo said.
“That’s what I had to do to make the next step. Football moves quickly and within the blink of an eye you find yourself somewhere else. That can be tough. But you are forced to settle in quickly, and things move so fast that you don’t even have too much time to think about it.
“I always feel like if you’re in the right place and you feel like you’ve got the right people around you, then the sky’s the limit. That’s kind of how I feel here. The people are special and that was the most important thing for me. You get a feeling, you get almost a gut feeling when you speak to people and have those conversations and you just kind of have to roll with it.
“The way that [Arsenal] elevate the women’s game and the work they put into the women’s team is massive. It’s a special club – you can feel it as soon as you walk through the door.”
90min recently caught up with Arsenal legend Kelly Smith, who is now working at the club again in a coaching capacity, and she was full of praise for Russo following her arrival.
In particular, Smith was full of admiration for Russo as “she wants to learn, she asks question and she’s very humble,” before adding that “there’s not too many players in world football that are as good,” when it comes to holding the ball up.
The admiration it seems is reciprocated, with Russo saying of Smith: “She’s been one of my idols since I was a little girl. She’s just really detailed. She won’t overload you with information but it’ll be like two or three key details.”
Russo also spoke of how she’s looking to evolve her game, reflecting: “The older I get the more I realise that there’s so many little things that you can do to help the team throughout the course of a game and a season. Obviously, you want to score – I would be lying if I said I didn’t.
“But there’s lots to learn and lots that I feel like I’m learning, looking at finer details of things like movements in the box, how I can create half a yard better. Little things that maybe aren’t obvious to the wider world, but when you’re in it you can pin down details.”