When Katie Zelem swapped life in Lancashire for a taste of La Dolce Vita, she wasn’t sure she was ever going to come back.
But when her childhood club Manchester United came calling, it was the easiest decision she ever had to make.
The former Liverpool midfielder made the move to Juventus when she couldn’t foresee a full-time career in English football back in 2017.
The top flight’s transition to professional wasn’t enough to lure her back from the Italian shores one year later either, but a chance to captain the Red Devils was an offer she simply couldn’t refuse.
“To be honest, I wouldn’t have come back for any other club,” said Zelem.
“Italy was a phenomenal experience. The food, the weather - there’s not much you can’t miss about it but I spent a large part of my youth career at United and that was a huge factor in me coming back.
“I’ve always loved Wayne Rooney. I remember seeing him and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer around. We used to come out when we were eight or nine years old and we didn’t realise they were such big superstars!
“I never expected to come back signing for Manchester United, but the world works in strange ways. “A lot of people say everything happens for a reason and I really think that is true.”
Football is in Zelem’s blood. Her father, Alan, used to play in goal for Macclesfield and her uncle Peter was a defender for Wolverhampton Wanderers and Burnley.
A true footballing family, the Zelems have a lot in common, so much so that they were willing to switch allegiance from the blue to red side of Manchester when Katie entered the ranks.
“When my dad was young, he used to go to Maine Road with his dad and brother and watch City, but ever since I’ve played for Manchester United, he’s been a Red,” she added.
“My mum’s side of the family are City fans and she texted me after the second game saying, ‘What have I told you about scoring goals against Manchester City!’
“They said they’d consider becoming a Manchester United women’s fan but that’s about as far as they would go.”
She may not be able to please every member of her family but given that playing for United was a once-unimaginable scenario, Zelem won’t take a second with the Red Devils for granted.
“I struggled to believe that Manchester United would ever have a women’s team,” she said.
“It got to the point where I thought I needed to take my career elsewhere and probably stay there.
“It wasn’t only coming back to play for Manchester United, but being able to lead out the club I support at the Manchester derby at the Etihad on the opening day of the season was unbelievable.
“The Women’s Super League has come on leaps and bounds since I was with Liverpool. They were the first fully professional team in the top-flight but now the whole league is.
“If that doesn’t show how much the game has come on, I don’t know what does.”