The story of Ada Hegerberg and her return from two devastating injuries is a remarkable story ending in Champions League glory.
It doesn’t take much to excite Ian Wright. He’s an excited guy. But the former Arsenal forward was particularly excited when he welcomed Ada Hegerberg after the Lyon forward inspired their side to victory in the Champions League final.
This level of excitement was deserved.
Hegerberg was involved in all three goals as Lyon regained the European title from heavyweight Barcelona thanks to a stormy first-half performance. But the win also marked an impressive personal comeback for the Norway international.
In January 2020, Hegerberg was at the peak of her powers. She was a Ballon d’Or winner, fresh from setting the Champions League goalscoring record and leading the line at the all-conquering Lyon when she sustained an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
The rehab took place during lockdown before she was dealt another blow when she broke her shin on her return to training.
Hegerberg would be sidelined for 20 months before making an emotional return to the pitch in October 2021. By this time, Lyon had relinquished their Champions League crown for the first time in six years and lost their Ligue 1 title for the first time in a decade and a half.
“I could never imagine being here a year later,” Hegerberg told Dazn after the final whistle in Turin. “I’ve come far, it’s incredible, I get goosebumps just thinking about it. Resilience, hard work, it’s worth it, it’s so motivating. I’m only 26 too, so let’s move on!”
People have short memories in football. Despite winning five consecutive European titles, Lyon was seemingly old news ahead of the 2022 Champions League final. For the first time in five years, there had been a power shift in European football and Barcelona were the new heavyweights of women’s football, having risen to victory in 2021 with their refined possession football.
But Barcelona had started to show their vulnerability in the final stages of the competition and looked shaky as Real Madrid and Wolfsburg pushed them high in the quarter-finals and semi-finals. Lyon pounced on that faint glimmer and uncovered it in its entirety. The French team led 3-0 within 33 minutes – the ‘brave underdogs’ is approaching her eighth European Championship title.
“We’ll let football do the talking! We didn’t speak,” added Hegerberg. “But it’s part of the game, it’s totally normal to talk about Barcelona; They were the last winners. History is made forever, but football is fresh, it’s all about the next step and that’s normal. Winning this year wasn’t easy.”
It’s a testament to Lyon’s longevity that the club were able to respond to such a fierce challenger to their dominance, put themselves to the test and raise the bar again, and a testament to Hegerberg’s quality that they went on to take on the greatest could return to the stage almost two years ago as if she had never been away.
“I think we were a pain in the ass for people too – we’ve won five years in a row,” added the striker. “But now we’re back, baby.”
Hegerberg now has her first major tournament in seven years with Norway on the horizon this summer after ending her five-year exile from the national team. With the form she is finding and the squad Norway are currently boasting, there could be another notable chapter in her comeback story. Imagine Ian Wright’s excitement back then.