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Alessia Russo eager to make ‘more amazing memories’ with best friend Ella Toone

Alessia Russo KAFUISPOT
England forward Alessia Russo has come to terms with the fact that sometimes the best career move requires parting ways with your closest friend.

The 24-year-old joined Arsenal on a free transfer before flying out to pre-World Cup camp in Australia, a deal that will see her separated from fellow Lioness and former Manchester United team-mate Ella Toone in the Women’s Super League from next season.

So, while this World Cup campaign, which kicks off for England against Haiti on Saturday, is monumental for the whole squad, it holds a unique significance for the duo who bonded a decade ago at junior England camp when they noticed they were sporting the same footwear.

Alessia Russo KAFUISPOT
Alessia Russo

“I mean, it’s sad, but it’s football,” said Russo, speaking after a training session on the Sunshine Coast.

“I think Ella and I were friends since we were like 12, 13, and we will be for, well, forever. And I think that it’s really nice that we’ve got this summer together to really spend some more time together, hopefully create some more amazing memories and then go into seasons together.

“But when she goes down south, she’ll stay with me and vice versa.

“We’re just there to balance each other out, really. Obviously we do loads together. Our rooms (in Australia) are next door to each other, we knock on the way down for breakfast so we spend a lot of time together. She’s like my sister. You never get sick of her so it’s nice.”

Getting the paperwork signed, sealed and delivered was top of Russo’s pre-departure priority list ahead of England’s quest for a first global title, although she has had minimal contact with new club boss Jonas Eidevall.

She said: “I’m really, really glad it’s all done. Feel like a little bit of a weight is off my shoulders coming into the World Cup and that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to try and get it all sorted before the tournament kicked off.

“And now I can fully focus on this World Cup and obviously after that head into Arsenal, so really excited.

“(Jonas) just said to go out and enjoy it. Obviously I haven’t spent too much time with him yet, but looking forward to that when I go back in. And I think I’m excited for a new challenge and to progress.”

Toone is the yin to Russo’s yang. While the former was eager to share her reading list and transformative experience of swimming off the Sunshine Coast, Russo lit up most when she simply spoke about football.

She was particularly keen to discuss her development as a number nine now under significantly more scrutiny than before England’s Euro 2022 triumph, where her brilliant backheel against Sweden was named UEFA’s goal of the tournament and later nominated for FIFA’s goal of the year.

Russo, who scored four goals in that tournament, said: “That’s the nature of the sport. When a player plays more and you understand them more you can figure out ways to defend, but then that’s on me to try and go against it and watch clips and push myself even more.

“Obviously you’re not new anymore but you’ve got to find ways and find solutions so you can flip it into a positive, and that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m still trying to push on and learn to be better.

“The nine is, people think it’s easy but it’s hard and there are a lot of little things that go into it, so I’m just trying to learn as much as I can and push on every day, and hopefully when it comes to it I’ll be ready.”


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