A salute to a soon-departing Chelsea legend Ji So-yun

Ji So-Yun (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Ji So-Yun (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images) /

As Ji So-yun said so eloquently, “Once a Blues, always a Blue.” After eight spectacular seasons at Chelsea, Ji has made the tough decision to head back to South Korea. Ji will finish out the rest of the 2021/22 campaign with the Blues as they hope to end their season with two additional trophies to add to the legend’s lengthy collection of silverware.

Coming over from INAC Kobe Leonessa in Japan during the January transfer window in 2014, Ji was highly regarded by manager Emma Hayes. In eight seasons in the midfield, Ji has been not only a world class player, but a world class person off the pitch that the club will miss as it continues its growth as a staple in women’s football. Ji joined a club nearly a decade ago that was looking to start a new chapter, and she leaves a legend. The superb midfielder has helped mold Chelsea into a club that has limitless possibilities in the future and her contributions to the Blues over the years cannot be overstated.

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Ji So-yun is ready to depart Chelsea, but she leaves behind a legendary legacy

When the news was made official, manager Emma Hayes spoke on the player she brought to west London over eight years ago, stating:

"“What an honor and a privilege it’s been to coach one of the most amazing players the WSL has ever seen. There’s no question she’s been the most successful player from outside our league …Ji’s helped the club grow on and off the pitch and she’s a fabulous character who will be sorely missed. I will miss her terribly and I’m so grateful for everything she’s done for everyone at the football club. We are in a much better place because of it.”"

Ji’s teammates took to social media to express their gratitude, notably Sam Kerr, Fran Kirby and Millie Bright, amongst others. Next season, Chelsea will have to find a way to replace one of the most irreplaceable players in the history of women’s football. While her departure leaves a giant hole in the midfield for the Blues, it provides players with more opportunities to succeed and lead Chelsea into a future full of possibilities. Players like Jessie Fleming, Niamh Charles and Lauren James will be given a lot more time in the attack. Melanie Leupolz only played part of the season this year due to her pregnancy, but with her quality, she will slot back into the midfield, as well.

While she helped put Chelsea in the position it is today with all of her goal contributions that led to a plethora of trophies, Ji’s colorful personality is what makes her truly special. Coming over from Japan at 23 years old cannot be easy for someone who does not speak the native language in the United Kingdom. Through loads of support from the club, Ji learned on the fly, and lifted the Blues to their first Women’s Super League title in 2015 following the disappointment that was 2014.

If everything goes according to plan, Ji will conclude her Chelsea career as a five-time WSL champion and a four-time Women’s FA Cup winner. The South Korean will finish her time with the Blues sitting in third for most appearances and second on the all-time assists list. Ji plays football with such positivity, and there is not a game where she does not break a smile. She may be gone, and in a different uniform in the future, but Kingsmeadow will always be home for arguably the greatest Chelsea Women’s player to ever sport the badge.

It is always hard to say farewell to a legend, but knowing what she brought to the club makes the realization of her departure more manageable. Chelsea is on track to contend for the UEFA Women’s Champions League title sometime in the future due to Ji and what she did to help evolve this club that was desperate for an orchestrator in the middle of the park. Supporters should be proud and grateful to have watched the maestro with their own eyes for eight storied years. Her presence and knowledge lives on in her teammates. She may be leaving, but until then, there is still work to be done at Chelsea. The Blues need to help Ji bow out in the English capital in the only way that makes sense: more trophies.

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What is your favorite Ji moment at Chelsea? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!