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Ada Hegerberg returns for Lyon: a salute to the history-maker

The all-time top UEFA women's club scorer has made her comeback: we salute Ada Hegerberg.

 Ada Hegerberg on her comeback game against Häcken
Ada Hegerberg on her comeback game against Häcken Getty Images

Lyon's Ada Hegerberg became the all-time top UEFA women's club goalscorer in November 2019 but two months later she suffered an ACL rupture and her absence was further extended in September 2020 by a stress fracture in her left tibia.

But on 5 October 2021, the Norwegian forward returned to action on the inaugural night of the very first UEFA Women's Champions League group stage away to Häcken. We list the many achievements of a player that set career records before the age of 25.

Ada Hegerberg was tipped for success from making her top-flight Norwegian debut for Kolbotn aged 15 and since then she has already racked up more than 300 career goals, including a record 15 in the 2017/18 UEFA Women's Champions League, her and Lyon's third triumph in a row. In 2015/16 she was voted UEFA Best Women's Player in Europe and with the inaugural 2018 women's Ballon d'Or also in her possession, we salute a player with a career goals tally that would be the envy of strikers a decade older than her 26.

What they say
"Ada has a physical and mental strength above the norm. She is on her way to becoming the best player in the world."
Jean-Marie Aulas, Lyon president

"A young player, but already a great player. It's impressive to see just how mature she already is in her play. An exceptional goalscorer."
Camille Abily, former Lyon captain

"She has unconventional qualities. It is impressive how she has managed to make history in such a short space of time."
Eugénie Le Sommer, Lyon attacker

"A lot of people must be happy about [her] comeback. The whole of women's football must be happy, she is a great player, she has gone through many difficult times. she had tears of joy."
Sonia Bompastor, Lyon coach

Hegerberg voted Best Women's Player in Europe 2015/16
Hegerberg voted Best Women's Player in Europe 2015/16

Claims to fame
Norway
• At only 15, helped Norway to the 2011 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship final.

• Her senior debut came the same year and Hegerberg captured headlines at UEFA Women's EURO 2013, where she scored in the quarter-final defeat of Spain as Norway finished runners-up.

• Hegerberg was nominated for the Young Player Award at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup and was the ten-goal joint-top scorer in UEFA Women's EURO 2017 qualifying. Currently not available for the national team.

Kolbotn, Stabæk, Turbine Potsdam
• Having made her senior Kolbotn debut aged 15 in 2010, the following year she made headlines as she became the youngest-ever hat-trick scorer in Norway's top dvision, taking just seven minutes to rack up three against Røa, who went on to become champions, conceding only 18 times in 22 matches.

• Having been Kolbotn's top scorer in 2011, Hegerberg joined Stabæk, aiding them to Norwegian Cup success ... with a final hat-trick against Røa. She was league top scorer on 25 goals.

• That success earned Hegerberg a move to Germany's Turbine Potsdam and she scored on her Frauen Bundesliga debut against Freiburg.

Watch all Hegerberg's goals in Lyon's 2015/16 winning run
Watch all Hegerberg's goals in Lyon's 2015/16 winning run

Lyon
• Lyon took Hegerberg to France in summer 2014 and in her first season she was league top scorer with 26 goals in 22 matches for the champions.

• The 2015/16 campaign was even more successful; not only did Lyon win the treble of UEFA Women's Champions League, French League and French Cup, Hegerberg totalled 54 goals including a competition-leading 13 in Europe, opening the scoring in the final against Wolfsburg.

• Hegerberg was named UEFA best women's footballer in Europe for 2015/16 and in the calendar year 2016 scored more goals than anyone else in UEFA competitios, pipping Cristiano Ronaldo.

• Another treble followed in 2016/17, a season that included Hegerberg being named BBC Women's Footballer of the Year.

• Last season Hegerberg had another spectacular campaign with 53 goals, including a record 15 in the UEFA Women's Champions League (moving into the top ten in the competition all-time goalscorers' list at 22 years of age) as Lyon made it three wins in a row.

• She extended her contract until 2021 and by the time she received the first women's Ballon d'Or award in December 2018, she was already close to 20 goals fo the season.

• Ended 2018/19 with another treble, and a hat-trick in the UEFA Women's Champions League final against Barcelona, something only achieved once before (by Inka Grings for Duisburg in 2009).

• Hit the ground running the following season, not least with nine goals in her first four European appearances to overtake Anja Mittag's competition record of 51.

• An ACL injury in January 2020 followed by knee surgery in September ruled her out for the rest of that year but it ended with her signing a new Lyon contract until 2024.

• Her return came on 5 October 2021 away to Häcken on the first night of the inaugural UEFA Women's Champions League group stage.

What you might not know
• In January 2016, Hegerberg became only the second woman to win the Golden Ball as Norway's best footballer. The previous female recipient was Hege Riise after Norway won the 1995 FIFA Women's World Cup.

Ada (right) with Andrine in 2011
Ada (right) with Andrine in 2011©Sportsfile

• Hegerberg's elder sister, Andrine, played along side Ada for Kolbotn, Stabæk and Potsdam and well as Norway at young and senior level. They faced off for the first time last month after Andrine joined Paris Saint-Germain, Lyon drawing a league game 0-0 but losing a rain-interrupted French Cup final 1-0.

• As a joke, Stabæk's website once wrote that the pair were the daughters of humorous Norwegian rocker 'Bare' Egil Hegerberg. Many were taken in, and once they scotched the rumours, @BareEgilBand tweeted: "Few things are more painful than being rejected by your own children."

• Hegerberg says: "I like books. I read a lot, to be honest. I have Norwegian favorites but I read everything from biographies to novels."

• Hegerberg is from a family of Leeds United fans, tweeting when they were promoted back to the Premier League in July 2020: "We (as in Mum, Andy and me) literally have been through their pain throughout 16 years for this Congrats @LUFC & all supporters !!"

What she says
"I've been working on the small details since I was very young. I think that what takes you a long way is hard work and commitment, doing your best every day, working on the little things, and I think my own season so far is the result of that."

"To be honest I didn't watch that much women's football when I was younger. My favourite team is Arsenal and I always loved watching Thierry Henry in his best period of his career. I think he was the best player of the world at that time. His movement, finishing, and last but not least his hunger for always wanting to score goals – pure class."

"I've developed a lot since I came to Lyon two years ago. Coming here with all these world-class players has really pushed me. I think it's easy to say that a club like Olympique Lyonnais can just go and get a title, but there's so much hard work behind it, every day in training, mentally and physically."

"It is a joy to go to work every day doing what you love the most."

Hegerberg celebrates her goal in the 2018 final
Hegerberg celebrates her goal in the 2018 final©Getty Images

[After her serious injury in January 2020] “This is a setback for me, but I’m going to work through this with all my heart and my energy. The best is yet to come. YOU’LL SEE ME SOON!”

"I can see the impact all the success that I’ve had with Lyon has not only had on young girls but also young boys in Norway. I feel that’s a big game-changer.”

[After extending her Lyon contract in December 2020] "At heart, this is my club. I wanted to extend my contract from the start because there was no doubt in my head. OL have always been the number one option. It gives me additional peace of mind to come back even stronger now."

[On her return in October 2021] "I’m not coming back to stand still, I’m coming back to keep it that way and keep the statistics high, because that’s a record I intend to keep as long as I play. That scoring record is definitely something I’m proud of."

What she might achieve yet
• Hegerberg leads the all-time UEFA Women's Champions League scorers' list, getting to 50 European goals faster than any other women or man. She seems likely to establish a lead similar to that held by Cristiano Ronaldo in the men's competition, with a century not beyond reach.

• She has been part of the Lyon side that became the first to win fourth European titles in a row, in both 2015/16 and 2017/18 striking in finals against Wolfsburg and topping the season's goalscorers list, before her 2018/19 heroics against Barcelona. There is plenty of time to add more even if another personal triumph in August 2020 was denied by her injury.

• The first three winners of the UEFA Best Women's Player in Europe Award – German trio Nadine Angerer, Nadine Kessler and Célia Šašić – all immediately retired (in Kessler's case due to injury). The fourth winner Hegerberg seems more likely than not to add to her tally though she lost out to Pernille Harder and Lucy Bronze in 2017/18 and 2018/19 prior to her injury.