Emma Hayes admitted it would be a fairytale end to her Chelsea career by lifting the Women’s Champions League for the first time at the end of the season.
Hayes will end her 12-year stay with the west London club after this campaign to take over as manager of the US women’s national team.
The Champions League is the one major trophy that has eluded the 47-year-old during that time, with the Blues having lost 4-0 in the 2021 final to Barcelona and reached the semi-finals on three other occasions.
Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s opening Group D fixture against Real Madrid, Hayes told a press conference: “It would be a fairytale to win it, of course. But I didn’t grow up liking fairytales – my sister did.
“I would love nothing more than to be in a winning position with this team.”
Chelsea beat Real 2-0 at Kingsmeadow last season courtesy of goals from Sophie Ingle and Erin Cuthbert before they drew 1-1 in the Spanish capital.
And Hayes, who highlighted the threat of left-back Olga Carmona, believes the experience of playing Wednesday’s opponents has helped her side’s preparations.
She added: “We have analysed last season’s match and Real Madrid’s other matches, including this weekend’s match (7-1 win v Real Sociedad). We know what to expect.
“I think having been here helps, it’s something familiar, but we don’t underestimate them.
“They have many qualities, but I think they have the best on the extremes. The ability to go upwards, especially on the left with Olga.
“They have players looking for the back and putting balls into the area and they are very good in transition.”
Chelsea captain Millie Bright admitted the news of Hayes’ departure is “devastating”.
She said: “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind. I was devastated.
“She is a mentor, a coach, a friend, life coach – it’s more than football playing under her. It is the hard part of football. I feel privileged to have played under her for so long.”
Analysis: Hayes a pioneer in English women’s football
Sky Sports’ Charlotte Marsh:
“It is unusual for a manager to announce their departure from a club so early in the season – but Emma Hayes has always broken the mould.
“And in a lot of ways, seven months is needed to try and comprehend just how big of an impact Hayes has not only had at Chelsea, but across women’s football in England as a whole.
“Her numbers for the Blues speak for themselves – trophies upon records upon titles. And wouldn’t it be the end to the fairy tale if she bowed out by winning the club their first Champions League title?
“By transforming Chelsea into the women’s powerhouse they are, Hayes has championed and pioneered the standards that the entire game is now being held to.
“Player health across the board, facilities, training methods, staffing, transfers – you can see Hayes’ influence in each area. Women’s football would simply not be where it is without her lighting the way.
“She has been at the forefront of the growth of women’s football, a voice others turn to for opinion and direction on the biggest issues facing not only the game, but women overall.
“Hayes too has shown that this can all be achieved as a mother, as someone who battles against health issues and personal loss just like us all. None of it has impacted her ability to do her job successfully and reflects the human element that can sometimes be missing in football.
“Her confirmed move to the USA offers her a new challenge and one that will be incredibly exciting to watch unfold.
“But for now, the tributes and goodbyes will come flooding in over the coming months and rightly so. Chelsea and women’s football have a lot to thank Hayes for.”