On the move: A look at Canadian national team players who switched clubs in January

The profile of Canadian soccer players has never been better in the global game. The clear evidence of that came over the past month when multiple members of both national teams secured big European transfers.

With the men’s national team coming off of their first World Cup appearance in 34 years, and the women’s team now in a World Cup year themselves coming off an Olympic gold medal win, the competition for spots on the respective teams has never been fiercer. Players now constantly need to push themselves to new heights to keep in the eyes and minds of John Herdman and Bev Priestman.

Whether it be Jayde Rivière and Sabrina D’Angelo going to top Women’s Super League clubs, Cyle Larin’s La Liga loan or Alistair Johnston to Scottish giants Celtic, Canadian fans will get to watch a few more national team players at the very highest levels.

Here is a breakdown of some of the key Canadian players who made moves during January, and what those moves could mean for their careers and national team outlook:

Jayde Rivière to Manchester United 

Her 22nd birthday was far from the only thing Rivière celebrated during the month of January, also signing her first-ever professional contract — with her “dream club” Manchester United, no less. At such a young age, her resumé is incredibly impressive, with an Olympic gold medal and 36 international caps already to her name.

Having spent the last four years at the collegiate level with the Michigan Wolverines, playing for a United team who currently sits top of the WSL standings will only serve to push her to the next level. The incredibly talented attack-minded right back remains one of the key members of this next generation of Canadian players that will form the core of this group for years to come. Spending the latter half of the season with United will also critically raise her levels ahead of this summer’s World Cup. Rivière is still recovering from injury but should be available to make her debut within the next month.

Cyle Larin to Real Valladolid on loan

Larin’s move to Club Brugge was perhaps the most disappointing summer transfer for any Canadian national team player. After two solid seasons with Besiktas in Turkey, Larin moved to the Belgian champions looking to boost his profile before the World Cup. Instead, he found limited minutes for two separate managers, appearing just 13 times in all competitions and scoring once. A change of scenery was badly needed, and given his play at Besiktas and the fact that he led Concacaf World Cup qualifying with 13 goals, there was still plenty of interest.

Larin eventually elected to join La Liga side Real Valladolid on loan, a club battling relegation who had scored just 13 times in 18 matches before his arrival. This past weekend, the 27-year-old made an instant impact in his debut, coming off the bench to score a 90th-minute winner against Valencia to give the club its first win since late November. For strikers, confidence is everything, and a moment like that will go a long way toward both club and country form for Larin. If he can help Valladolid stay up, and score more goals in the process, a bigger move could be coming.

For now, it is a move that should keep Larin in a starting spot for the national team. This is especially true considering Ike Ugbo was unable to secure a move away from Troyes in France, where he has struggled this season, and Lucas Cavallini remains without a club.

Sabrina D’Angelo to Arsenal 

Since Steph Labbé retired from international football in April of last year, Kailen Sheridan has taken over as the women’s national team’s number one. At 27, Sheridan is considered one of the best goalkeepers in the world and was outstanding again for the NWSL’s San Diego Wave this past season. But perhaps there could be more of a battle at that position than previously expected after 29-year-old D’Angelo joined Arsenal in the WSL from Swedish side Vittsjö. She becomes the first Canadian, male or female, to suit up for the storied club.

The move is not without risk, as D’Angelo will be competing for minutes with Austrian international Manuela Zinsberger, who won the WSL Golden Glove award last season. But her spot on the Canadian women’s national team is incredibly secure at this point, so this is a move that will force her to push herself both in training and when she gets on the pitch. If D’Angelo can manage to win the starting job at Arsenal, it would significantly increase her chances of doing the same for Canada.

Alistair Johnston to Celtic

As he has done at every stop of his professional and international career, Johnston has touched down in Glasgow and already made himself a fan favourite. It certainly helped that he put in a strong 90 minutes in his debut for the club, which came in an Old Firm derby draw with Rangers at Ibrox.

With Celtic currently running away with this year’s Scottish Premiership, nine points ahead of Rangers having won 21 of 23 matches played so far this year, this is a move that will benefit Johnston this year and beyond. Cementing his place in the squad this year could mean significant European minutes next season.

For now, here is an example of Johnston’s trademark charm during a recent Twitter AMA with Celtic:

Clarissa Larisey to BK Häcken

As one Canadian player joins Celtic, another departed the club this past month. The 23-year-old Ottawa native spent the last season and a half in Scotland, winning the League Cup and Scottish Cup double last season. Larisey departs the Scottish Women’s Premier League leading the golden boot race this season and scored a stunning 21 times in 28 matches during her time there.

Given the women’s national team’s occasional struggles to score goals, that kind of prolific offensive ability makes Larisey incredibly intriguing. She scored her first for the women’s national team last year in a friendly against Morocco, and having moved to top Swedish side BK Häcken, she will have the chance to prove she can step up to the next level of women’s club football.

If Larisey can keep up her outstanding form, she could be an important weapon for Bev Priestman and co at the World Cup in New Zealand and Australia — and this move only increases her chances of getting significant minutes should she hit the ground running, and scoring, in Sweden.

Ismäel Kone to Watford

Even before a strong performance at the World Cup, 20-year-old midfielder Ismäel Kone had been receiving plenty of European interest. He finally put pen to paper ahead of the January window, securing a move to Watford in the English Championship. The Hornets currently sit in a Championship playoff spot, and will be pushing for promotion at the end of the season. He has already made four appearances in all competitions, quickly impressing manager Slaven Bilić. Under Bilić, Kone has been deployed in a variety of different roles ranging from number 10 to a number, showing his range of passing and defensive abilities. It has been a great start to what promises to be a long European career, and undoubtedly makes Kone a fixture for the national team for years to come.

Theo Corbeanu to Arminia Bielefeld

After spending the first half of the season on loan with Championship side Blackpool, Wolves have elected to send Corbeanu to Germany for the latter half. He joins Arminia Bielefeld of the 2. Bundesliga, a club currently deep in a relegation battle and who could certainly use Corbeanu’s attacking flair. The loan will afford Corbeanu an opportunity to learn and develop in a new country and league, where he can hopefully find more consistency in his game.

There were certainly bright moments for the 20-year-old winger at Blackpool, but the next step, and the one that will get him back to the national team consistently, is showing it on a game-by-game basis. Nonetheless, he remains one of the most exciting prospects in the men’s national team player pool.

Derek Cornelius to Malmö FF

One of a few Canadians on this list to make a move to Sweden, Cornelius has joined Malmö FF from Greek side Panetolikos on loan from the Vancouver Whitecaps. Having won the Swedish league 25 times, as well as being runners-up in the European Cup (now Champions League), Malmö is a storied club that regularly competes in European competition. Should the 25-year-old Cornelius be able to secure regular minutes with the Swedish Allsvenskan it would almost certainly mean the same for the Canadian men’s national team, in a position where they could still really use some increased quality and level.

Marco Bustos to Värnamo

Joining Cornelius in Sweden is former Pacific FC attacker Marco Bustos. After receiving multiple different offers, including within the Canadian Premier League where he spent the last four seasons, the 26-year-old elected to join Värnamo in the Allsvenskan. The dynamic attacker currently has six caps for Canada, with his last call-up coming in January of 2021. A few good years in Sweden, however, could put him right back in the mix and he is certainly more than ambitious enough to want to be right back in that conversation.

Gabrielle Carle to Washington Spirit

An alternate on the Canadian Olympic team who did not make the initial 18-player squad, the 24-year-old Carle has worked her way back into Bev Priestman’s plans this past year. She and Bianca St-Georges have mostly been splitting time at left back of late and now she will get a chance to take on the fellow Quebecer in NWSL action as well. In December, it was announced that Carle had left Swedish side Kristianstads, and would be joining the Washington Spirit. What this move means for her national team career remains to be seen, but is unquestionably a good level for her to continue to grow as a player on a side who were the 2021 NWSL champions.

Ballou Tabla to FK Manisa

After an outstanding season with Atlético Ottawa in the Canadian Premier League, Tabla secured a move back to Europe with Turkish second-division side FK Manisa. He made his debut for the club, who currently sit 11th in the league, off the bench over the weekend in a 1-1 draw.

It is certainly lower profile than his last move across the pond, which saw him join the FC Barcelona setup, and won’t immediately put him back onto John Herdman’s radar. But if he can continue to show his ability and work rate at another level, this time in Europe, bigger moves and potentially a return to the national team setup could follow. Still just 23, the potential remains, and the love for the game, it would appear, has returned.

Dominick Zator & Marcus Godinho to Korona Kielce

The Polish club secured a pair of Canadian signings over the winter break, including former York United central defender, and 2022 CPL Defender of the Year nominee, Zator. He has since been joined at Kielce by former Vancouver Whitecap and men’s national team fullback Marcus Godinho. Both will have a tall task on their hands from the start as Kielce are currently in last place in the Ekstraklasa, a full six points from safety. Zator, however, has already made his debut going 90 minutes in a 3-2 loss to second-place Legia Warsaw.