LYON, France -- Lyon star and former Ballon d'Or winner Ada Hegerberg said she "never doubted" her ability to return from a severe knee injury, and is "making the most of every moment" after being sidelined for 20 months.
The Norwegian had been out since January 2020 before coming off the bench for the final 12 minutes of Lyon's 3-0 win against Hacken in Sweden in the opening round of Women's Champions League group stage matches earlier this month.
Hegerberg, 26, faced a long road back to fitness after rupturing the cruciate ligament in her right knee and then suffering a left tibia stress fracture.
"I never doubted coming back. The comeback was my driving force to get through the very difficult times," Hegerberg told AFP in an interview.
"Of course it's something I would have liked not to go through, but that's a part of me now. I'm turning it into a strength for the rest of my career."
Hegerberg is a five-time Champions League winner and the all-time record scorer in the competition with 53 goals.
But after her long-term injury troubles, simply making it onto the pitch for the closing stages of her team's win over Hacken was a moment she will never forget.
"There was inevitably lots of emotion. I'd been waiting for that for a long time. As I took my first steps I was going back over everything in my head, all the difficult moments," said Hegerberg.
"I saw how the girls were happy for me, for the team, but also all the feedback from people. I really enjoyed the moment because it was a huge personal victory."
Hegerberg signed a contract extension with Lyon until 2024 at the end of last year and is confident she can rediscover her best form.
"I'm making the most of every moment of my return. With time and hard work things will get back to normal. I'm convinced I can return to the level where I want to be. I'm keeping a positive outlook by looking ahead," she said.
With Hegerberg on the treatment table, Lyon's five-year reign in Europe was ended by Paris Saint-Germain in last season's quarter-finals. PSG also halted Lyon's run of 14 consecutive French league titles.
"When you play for OL you always have to try and win every trophy. I want to help the team climb back up after last season because it's important to stay the best team in Europe, even the world," she said.
"That's why I can't wait to get back to my best, playing matches regularly and, of course, scoring goals, beating all the records."
Barcelona replaced Lyon as champions of Europe, thrashing Chelsea 4-0 in the final in May, but Hegerberg warned she "can't wait" to try and prise the title back from the all-conquering Spaniards.
"The more competition there is the better. Barcelona had a great season but you have to note that OL have never lost to Barca," she said.
"They're a good team but we're focusing on ourselves and I'm sure we'll have the chance to face them. And we can't wait."
© Agence France-Presse