Albion have continued to step up their game in terms of recruitment in recent years. Nowhere is this more true than with the women’s team. But of them all, the signing of Inessa Kaagman is looking like the most astute of the lot. Having scored 6 goals in 18 games this season, she’s been a key part of Albion’s rise to 6th in the WSL.
Prior to building a name for herself in England, Inessa started her career in her native but Holland. She spent her youth career at Hollandia B1 before she earned a move to Ajax, making her debut in 2013 and winning the KNVB Women’s Cup with the club in her first season.
That summer she captained the Dutch team that won the UEFA u19 European Championships in 2014 alongside now WSL top scorer Vivianne Miedema, who unsurprisingly top scored at that tournament with 6 goals and was awarded the player of the tournament award. Whilst Miedema caught the headlines Kaagman too had a huge impact, including scoring the winner against Belgium in their final group stage match that saw them qualify for the semi-finals.
Inessa’s progress and potential was later recognised by her club team when she won Ajax’s Talent of the Year award the following season. During her five years at the club she went on to play over 100 times, winning 2 Eredivisie titles, 2 more KNVB Women’s Cups and becoming a key members of the team.
But despite her potential, due to Holland’s wealth of talent in the middle of the pitch it would be another four years before she made her senior international debut in 2019, going on to make the Dutch squad for that year’s World Cup alongside fellow Albion teammate and housemate Danique Kerkdijk.
The Dutch went all the way to the final, finishing as runners up to the mighty USWNT, however due to her rookie status Inessa didn’t play at the tournament. But she still reflects on it as a positive experience, telling the Guardian “Even though I didn’t play I felt like I deserved the medal. The staff made us feel like part of the team from day one. It’s not the 11 players or the 14 players who’ve played that win the silver medal, it is everyone.”
Prior to the World Cup and after five seasons at Ajax she had left Dutch domestic football for the WSL in England, moving to Everton in 2018 in a deal that took fellow Dutchwoman Marthe Munsterman the other way.
Upon signing for Everton she said: “I hope to help them by scoring goals and attacking.” And her eight goal contribution in her first season (four goals, four assists), did just that and was a huge part in Everton’s survival in the Women’s Super League as they scraped a 10th place finish. That season she also won the club’s Goal of the Season award in for an outstanding long-range strike in the Merseyside derby.
But while the following season the team’s fortunes improved, her influence reduced and her contract was not renewed at the end of the season. She told the offside rule on her second season at Everton: “It’s a huge improvement from last year so I am really happy to have played a part in that. Last year was my first season away from the Eredivisie and Ajax and when I was there we were always playing for the Championship and the cups. But the league here is much better and far more physical and the game moves a lot faster, the Dutch game is catching up but it’s not at this level yet. For me it was very different to be that low in the table and it was annoying because I wasn’t used to losing that many games but this season we’ve improved lots in results and in the football we’ve been playing.”
However, Inessa was now left looking for a new club. Fortunately for her, despite a less impressive second season at Everton she was still considered a highly thought of player. As herfootballhub.com said last summer: “The options for Kaagman are virtually endless. Many clubs in Europe are in need of a player like her.” Going on to say “she has gone under the radar at Everton and quietly became one of the most underrated players in the league.”
So it was a coup by fellow WSL strugglers Brighton to sign her back in the summer. Upon signing head coach Hope Powell told the club website: “We’re really pleased to have signed Inessa, I think she is going to be a big asset to us. She has plenty of WSL experience and I first noticed her at Everton a couple of years ago. She will bring energy to the midfield and she is capable of scoring her fair share of goals too, which is an area we are looking to improve as a team.”
And she has been all that and more this season for Albion. She is constant positive force in midfield, demonstrated by the fact she has more key passes (passes that directly lead to a shot) than any Brighton player in the WSL this season, as well as her impressive goalscoring record. If Albion’s fellow attackers were more clinical in front of goal she’d have a few assists to her name too.
It has been an up and down season for Brighton in the WSL this season, but one with many positives. Arguably none less so that Inessa Kaagman.