Caroline Weir opens up on future amid Real Madrid links as Man City contract runs down
“I always dreamed of being a professional footballer, I thought I would play for Real Madrid one day.”
Caroline Weir, the Scotland and Manchester City midfielder, may yet find her words to be eerily prophetic. Out of contract at the end of this season, there has been significant chatter in Spanish media circles about a move to Real Madrid this summer. Inevitably coy on the matter going into the final games of the English Women’s Super League season, Weir would only confirm that her long-term future has offered significant food for thought.
Telling, though, was the career goals that cannot be achieved in an individual context but rather can only be realised in a particular environment.
“I want to win a league title, I want to be competing for a Champions League,” said the inaugural Glen’s SFWA Scottish Women’s Player of the Year. “They are team goals and then I have individual goals that I set myself every season to try and achieve. I feel I am in a good moment physically. I am not a young player any more. I have a bit of experience behind me and it is about pushing my level and constantly trying to improve. City has been a great platform for me to do that over the last few years and I want to keep pushing on.
“I’ve given it a little bit of thought because when you’re running out of contract it’s on your mind and you start to weigh up your options. There’s still a lot of important football to be played so my mind isn’t really thinking about off the pitch rumours. My head is just on City for the next few weeks and we’ll see what happens in the summer.
“It’s flattering [to be linked with Real Madrid] because they’re a massive club. That’s the way the game is, there’s lots of attention on it and people want to know what you’re thinking. But nothing has been decided, I’m happy here at City.”
Little wonder. City has elevated Weir’s status within the women’s game; there have been two FIFA Puskas shortlist appearances and a third exquisite strike in the Manchester derby in February has raised the suspicion it will be a hat-trick come January.
If the palatial surrounds of City’s training ground has offered the foundations to further her career, so too has the company she has been privileged to keep.
“It doesn’t quite happen like that [that you bump into one another in the corridor] but I have seen Kevin [De Bruyne], we’ve sat and had a coffee on the 3G pitch which separates the men’s and women’s side,” she said.
“He’s great and he’s interested in the women’s team. A lot of them are, they take a genuine interest. Pep [Guardiola] has spoken to a few of us and they’ve watched our training sessions because we’re on the pitch next door. They know exactly what’s going on with us. It’s a one club mentality which is good to be part of.”
There remains a suspicion that Scotland and its historical placing of women’s football still lends a perception of it being a backwater when compared to its more progressive – and wealthier – neighbours.
Weir was one of a number of Scottish international players who criticised the SFA earlier this month in an accusation around how games are promoted and tickets are sold, ill-founded given that sales follow the same procedure for all games.
The midfielder harbours an ambition of playing in front of a sell-out at Hampden before her career comes to a close and it is inevitable as Barcelona’s women attract world record attendances at the Nou Camp for Champions League games that there should be covetous eyes turned towards Spain.
For now, though, the inclusion of women’s awards for both the SFWA and the PFA are reflective of a growth within Scotland. Progress has been slow, as cultural changes always are, with Weir hinting at frustrations felt on that score.“In England I am used to us having the PFA awards which are massive with a lot attention on both men and women teams of the year. So to have something similar in Scotland, I think is the right thing,” she said. “I think in Scotland it is moving a little bit. Maybe slower than in other places if I am completely honest, just because down here it feels like the WSL has accelerated a lot and so have other European countries but in Scotland the league is getting better every year and the national team has qualified for major tournaments in the past 5 years and that definitely helps.
“There seems to be a shift in attitude to women’s football in Scotland, slowly anyways, and that is a positive thing. Going forward I think there are definitely more things that can be done but it seems to be going in the right direction.
“You need to be successful on the pitch and the more successful you are, the more people want to come and watch. A full Hampden would be the ultimate goal.”
That might still be a distance away but there is recognition that Weir and her contemporaries are the change they wanted once to see.
“Julie Fleeting was the only name in women’s football I really knew,” said Weir. “Growing up I didn’t really necessarily have those female role models.
“it is a nice feeling now because I didn’t have that growing up. Hampden is key for me because I would have dreamed of that as a young kid. I feel privileged that I am in the position I am in now and hopefully we can inspire the next generation for sure.”