“I left my family quite early – I think I was 15 – so I really invested in football and always knew that was what I wanted to do.”
Young footballers are regularly forced to make sacrifices to achieve their ambitions of qualifying for the professional game, and Johanna Rytting Kaneryd is no different.
But even she admits that representing Sweden at this year’s Euros and then moving to Chelsea would be nothing short of a “dream” for the girl who grew up in Kolsva, a village west of Stockholm.
But that’s not to say Rytting Kaneryd had no hope of qualifying for the WSL. “When this league started to progress, there was no doubt that this was the league I wanted to play in,” she said. sky sports in an exclusive interview ahead of Chelsea’s clash with Manchester United on Sunday.
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“Chelsea are one of the best teams in the world. If I think about the way I played when I was in my little village, it would be a dream.”
Chelsea may be among the elite, but Rytting Kaneryd reached a Champions League final seven years before his new club could do so for the first time – a remarkable feat for someone who hasn’t still only 25 years old.
Learning from iconic figures – such as Marta and Christen Press – who were part of Tyreso’s squad at the time, 17-year-old Rytting Kaneryd earned a place on the bench for the final against Wolfsburg, despite making his debut a few months earlier. .
Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to help her team as she remained an unused substitute in Tyreso’s 4-3 loss, but the experience was invaluable.
“It was just crazy,” said Rytting Kaneryd. “I was sitting on the bench but just to be on this adventure and to be part of this team, with all these big stars, it was a very good achievement. I learned a lot being in this group.”
Having been in the squad for a Champions League final at such a young age, one might have expected Rytting Kaneryd to quickly become one of the stars of the women’s football elite Damallsvenskan. in Sweden.
But instead, she decided to take it to the second level with Alta – for a very practical reason. “It was near Tyreso and I had to finish my studies, which I didn’t!” explained Rytting Kaneryd.
The opportunity to feature regularly also appealed to Rytting Kaneryd. “I was sitting on the bench a lot, so I really needed it to get in shape – which I did, so it was a perfect move,” she said.
If the idea of choosing to play in the second division was to return to Damallsvenskan soon as a more complete player, then Rytting Kaneryd’s plan worked like a charm, with a move to Djurgarden in 2016 ensuring she was back. in the big moment.
“I felt like I had become a better footballer,” Rytting Kaneryd said of her time at Alta. “People didn’t really know me but when they started seeing me play I think they realized I was still a young talent.
“It was a very good decision for me, showing everyone what kind of player I am.”
Rytting Kaneryd’s performances caught the eye of Rosengard, where she not only won a league title in 2019 but also played under Jonas Eidevall – now manager of Chelsea rivals Arsenal.
“Jonas is a very good coach,” says Rytting Kaneryd. “He’s so passionate and we played really well for him. He knows what he wants.
“The first year I played a lot and we won the league. The second year I didn’t have many starts, so I was happy to be able to move to Hacken.”
A move to a fifth club in seven years has shown Rytting Kaneryd’s best places playing regularly, and she was able to do so at Hacken, who finished second in Damallsvenskan in 2021 and reached the last 32 of the Champions League, where they were beaten. by Manchester City.
But after winning a league title and experiencing Champions League football with three different teams, Rytting Kaneryd says she is ready for “the next step”.
Several clubs were interested but Rytting Kaneryd decided the next step should come to Chelsea and, after speaking to Emma Hayes, she admitted the decision to join the WSL champions “wasn’t that difficult”.
“When Chelsea were interested in signing me, it was an easy choice,” added Rytting Kaneryd. “Chelsea are a winning club. I think when I spoke to Emma and heard the plan for me, it was a good decision.
“I feel like I can get better and better, so this stage was perfect for me. Of course it’s a challenge, but I feel like I’m improving with every training and every game. It’s a perfect match.”
Hayes revealed that Chelsea had been eyeing Rytting Kaneryd for at least a year before finally bringing him to the club and Paul Green, the chief executive who is helping to replace the manager as she recovers from surgery, said the club had followed her for “a long time”.
“We were looking for a wide player,” Green said exclusively. sky sports. “We hadn’t had a hard-core winger, especially on the right side, for many years and we felt we had to play with players who were a bit out of position.
“Johanna fits that bill. She’s a ball carrier, she gets you up the court. She’s very good one-on-one, she’s tricky and can get past players.
“She was definitely the type of player we were missing in our team and once we found out she was available – we had been following her for quite a long time – we were happy to complete the deal.”
Rytting Kaneryd also sees her strongest position on the right wing – “I think I’m quite fast and I like to run a lot”, she says – but is keen to highlight her flexibility, which is a trait that has no doubt impressed Hayes, a manager who does not hesitate to regularly refine his training.
Hayes’ tactical changes have seen Rytting Kaneryd already deployed in a variety of roles since joining Chelsea, but she insisted: “It’s not about training – it’s more about the role I’m playing. have in the field.
“I know my strengths and what I can bring to this team, so it doesn’t matter if I’m in a 3-5-2 or 4-3-3 or whatever – I’ll do what I’m good at and what they want me to do I am flexible.
This adaptability has helped Rytting Kaneryd rack up eight appearances since joining Kingsmeadow and, with Swedish team-mates Zecira Musovic and Magdalena Eriksson already integrated into the Chelsea squad, she says the move couldn’t go much better.
“It was amazing,” said Rytting Kaneryd. “It’s like I’ve been in this team forever. I came into the team quite quickly and I knew some of the Swedish players before, which made it easier. I really appreciate that and I I feel like I’m settling in.”
Green is equally positive about Rytting Kaneryd’s start at the club, saying she is “getting better every week” and that Chelsea are “looking forward to the many years that Johanna will be here”.
But although she enjoyed her introduction to English football, Rytting Kaneryd admits there is one topic she didn’t want to discuss with her new team-mates: Sweden 4-0 against England in the semi-finals of the Euro this summer.
Rytting Kaneryd faced Chelsea’s Millie Bright and Fran Kirby but, unsurprisingly, no member of the Blues’ Swedish contingent wished to relive the events at Bramall Lane.
“No, we didn’t talk! None of the Swedes really talked about this game!” she says. “We had one goal and that was to reach the final. But England were so good this year and we didn’t really have a chance against them.
“It’s always hard to lose and lose like we did, with so many goals against us, but it was a good experience to play my first tournament.”
Rytting Kaneryd prefers to focus on his previous achievements, such as his debut for Sweden last year and his first international goal against Brazil in June.
“A dream come true,” she says of her first international cap. “I always dreamed of playing in the national team and scoring against Brazil, when all my family was in the stands, it was an incredible feeling. I had really worked hard to achieve this goal, so I don’t can’t really explain this feeling.
“Then play the Euros, my first big tournament. I feel like this year I’ve achieved a lot and enjoyed every minute.”
Having described Chelsea as “a winning club”, it’s no surprise to hear Rytting Kaneryd hoping to add to his 2022 achievements. “I want to win everything I can with this team,” she said.
But there is one trophy that has continually eluded the Blues, despite their recent dominance in England. The suggestion of helping Chelsea finally win the Champions League – and win their own winners’ medal after tasting defeat eight years ago – brings a smile to Rytting Kaneryd.
“Everyone wants the same thing,” she says. “So it’s really nice to be a part of that.”
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