"I missed the team and the town," FC Malmö striker Manon Melis said of her return to the club in time for an eagerly anticipated quarter-final against holders Olympique Lyonnais.
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Only two non-Swedish players have topped the Damallsvenskan scoring charts on more than one occasion: Marta and Manon Melis.
Netherlands forward Melis ended up on top for FC Malmö in 2008 – joint with Marta – 2010 and 2011, part of a spell that yielded 60 goals in 73 league appearances and two titles. The former Be Quick '28 striker was to move to American side Sky Blue FC in 2012 but with their league placed in abeyance Melis instead spent last year at Linköpings FC, and although she managed 16 goals, this winter she made her return to Malmö.
It was just in time, as on Wednesday they visit UEFA Women's Champions League holders Olympique Lyonnais for the first leg of their quarter-final. Melis explains to UEFA.com why she returned and surveys the state of the game.
UEFA.com: What led you to go back to Malmö?
Manon Melis: My first plan was to travel to the US and play in New Jersey, but the league [folded]. So I went to Linköping, and it didn't work out the way I wanted. I had already played five years for Malmö and I missed the team and the town. So it was easy for me to return.
UEFA.com: You've got a big game coming up against Lyon. Are you looking forward to that match?
Melis: We started the preparation already in January, so it is a really a big game, not only for us players but also for the whole club. We're looking forward to it; we can't wait.
UEFA.com: You've had some success against French teams with the Netherlands; is that a boost, because you have beaten several of the Lyon squad?
Melis: Yes, that's a really positive thing, though now I play with a different team [and in the] Champions League, so it's really different. I have a positive feeling; we have a really great team with Malmö, and it is going to be a big game. But Lyon are the favourites.
UEFA.com: There is a lot of interest in the UEFA Women's Champions League in Sweden, and it is covered quite widely in the media. Do you feel that you're having to maintain a Swedish tradition, particularly after Umeå IK's previous success?
Melis: Well, we are another team, and last year Malmö played against Frankfurt [in the quarter-finals]. They lost, so now we really want to reach the semi-finals. And there is a lot of media attention right now for Malmö. So I hope that is also positive for us, and that a lot of people come to the game in Malmo. That will help us out.
UEFA.com You've been in Sweden for quite a few years and you have seen the game become more professional both there and in the Netherlands. What has changed?
Melis: If I look at Netherlands, when I started to play it was not really cool to play as a girl. But when I left for Sweden they also started a professional league in the Netherlands, so that's just so positive. Now it is improving more and more; more teams are coming and right now there is a Dutch-Belgian [BeNe] league. It is only positive for the game, but it takes time to improve the football.