LONDON: Chelsea manager Emma Hayes is to leave the Women’s Super League club at the end of the season.

Hayes will pursue “a new opportunity outside the WSL and club football”, said Chelsea.

The news comes after the Blues’ 6-0 victory at bottom club Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon, which sent them three points clear at the top of the WSL table.

The 47-year-old has been in charge of the Blues since 2012.

Hayes has guided Chelsea to six WSL titles, including four in a row, as well as five FA Cups and two League Cups.

In 2021 she led the Blues to the Champions League final, but they were beaten 4-0 by Barcelona in Gothenburg.

“Emma has been one of the biggest drivers of change in women’s football. Her achievements at Chelsea are unrivalled and will live in the club’s history forever,” the club’s co-sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley said.

Chelsea chairman Todd Boehly and co-controlling owner Behdad Eghbali added: “Emma’s contribution to Chelsea cannot be understated. She has been a pioneer in women’s football and is hugely respected within the game.”

Hayes has been heavily linked with the vacant USA women’s job after Vlatko Andonovski resigned as manager following their shock last-16 exit at the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

Speaking in August about reports linking her to the USA post, Hayes told BBC Sport: “I think the US has wonderful players and perhaps the tournament didn’t go the way they wanted, but my focus is on getting home and preparing Chelsea for the start of the season.”

Stewart and Winstanley added: “Given everything she has contributed to Chelsea in over a decade with the club, and the legacy she leaves behind, we would never stand in her way when she felt it was the right time to pursue a new challenge.

“We are pleased that she will remain with the club for the remainder of the season to give us the time to identify her successor.”

Former England midfielder Fara Williams said the challenge for Chelsea now is to find a replacement for Hayes. “The question is who are Chelsea going to get to replace Emma Hayes? It’s such a difficult job. It is sad that the WSL and Chelsea are going to lose her. What next for Emma? She will definitely be missed from the English game if she is going to leave it,” Williams told Final Score.

Hayes started her managerial career in the United States, with spells coaching Long Island Lady Riders and Iona College, before becoming assistant to Vic Akers at Arsenal in 2006.

She moved back to America in 2008 to take charge of Chicago Red Stars where she was sacked two years later.

Chelsea appointed Hayes following the resignation of Matt Beard in 2012, and in her 11 years at the club she has been named FA WSL Manager of the Season six times.