Reading striker Natasha Dowie said she had “a need to come back” to the Women’s Super League after playing abroad since 2016.
The 33-year-old left Doncaster Rovers Belles in 2016 to join Boston Breakers and had stints in Sweden, Norway and Australia before moving to Italy.
“I want to see how much the WSL has developed,” she said.
“The way each club has invested in the women’s game – I remember when I was playing in the WSL before, at top clubs like Everton and Liverpool, it had only really just started turning professional.
“We trained at Widnes at the rugby ground and it was 4G pitches. Now you see the likes of Chelsea reaching the Champions League final and all the top players want to play in England.
“It’s the league to be at. There are many great leagues in the world with top players in, but it’s England the players are getting drawn to.
“I want to see how I stand now. I have learnt a lot. I’ve changed as a person and a player. I’m excited by the opportunity for games to be on TV and it’s down to us to showcase the women’s game.”
‘Training facilities out of this world’
Dowie enjoyed her time in Milan, netting 14 goals in 24 appearances, but Covid-19 restrictions and a language barrier meant it was a “challenging 11 months”.
Reading manager Kelly Chambers tried to sign Dowie last season but the striker had “different aspirations”.
Now she is looking forward to playing in front of friends and family again, while the training facilities at Reading were another big attraction.
“When I spoke to [Chambers] again this year, I felt how much she wanted me and how much she invested to get me to Reading.
“It made me feel like it was the right club to go to. The new training facilities are out of this world, too.
“Hopefully I can score more goals so we can push on to try and challenge the top teams a bit more.”