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Melanie Leupolz: Germany can learn from English league

Reiss Tigwell
March 3, 2021

Experienced German international Melanie Leupolz swapped Bayern Munich for English side Chelsea in the summer. But the midfielder feels that more needs to be done to change the view of the women’s game in Germany.

Melanie Leupolz, Chelsea
Melanie Leupolz has become a regular at Chelsea after joining from Bayern MunichImage: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

When Melanie Leupolz was presented with the chance to swap Bayern Munich for Chelsea last year, it was an offer she simply couldn’t refuse. The allure of the Women's Super League (WSL), and the opportunity to experience something new was a dream come true. After finishing the season at Bayern, she packed her bags and headed for London.

"I always wanted to play abroad," she told DW. "For me the English league is the best in the world because it is really equal and there are so many good teams. It was my first wish to go here, and I am really happy that everything worked out."

It had been going so well at Bayern — where Leupolz was club captain. She had joined in 2014 from Freiburg and won back-to-back Women's Bundesliga titles in her first two years in Bavaria.

But Leupolz explained how the German top flight had become repetitive over the years, with the same two teams winning the league over and over again. She had a point. Since 2012, the title has been won exclusively by Bayern and Wolfsburg. The two are by far and away the best in the division, and the rest are left desperately trailing behind season after season.

Exposure important

Sitting in her London apartment on the Zoom call, one issue Leupolz simply couldn’t ignore was the future of the women’s game in Germany. 

"It can become better," said Leupolz. "We have to use all of the tournaments that will come in the next few years. We need to show more on television. Here in England, there is the FA Player where you can watch all of the games for free. You don’t have anything like that in Germany. They just show one game per week.

"I think we just need to start by improving the basics, and then people can see women’s football and change their mind because many people just view it in the same way as it was 20 years ago. It’s really changed since then. It’s a lot more physical now."

Despite all the logistical difficulties that come with moving abroad during a pandemic, Leupolz insisted she is enjoying life in London. No sooner had she moved to Chelsea, than she won a trophy, after beating Manchester City 2-0 in the Women’s Community Shield in August.

Since then she has cemented her place in the starting XI, and so far has made 13 WSL appearances, scoring three times – including a recent double against London rivals Tottenham in a 4-0 win.

Lockdown life in a new city

"I was looking forward to a nice city, but unfortunately then the lockdown came so I wasn’t able to see that many things. But in the beginning I was able to see London quite a few times. The people here are really nice and helpful. I wasn’t used to going to the supermarket and everyone calling me 'honey' and 'babe’ — that’s really not typical in Germany," she said, laughing.

"I think the people here in England love women’s football much more than they do in Germany. When you walk through the street there are always Chelsea fans, and they know our names. We had one game with fans in the stadium and it was really nice and cool to see all of them."

Playing in one of the best women’s leagues in the world is not without its challenges though, particularly when it comes to adapting to the intensity and physicality of the English game.

"Getting used to the physicality was difficult, but luckily, I like that side of the game and got used to it really fast," Leupolz said. "Training is much more intense. At Bayern sometimes we trained twice a day, but here I am so tired after training that I could not think about another session.

Melanie Leupolz, center, celebrates with Germany teammates.
Melanie Leupolz, center, has already won 70 caps for her country.Image: Anke Waelischmiller/SVEN SIMON /Imago Images

"The games are more open here, meaning the weaker teams are able to score goals more easily. It’s a lot faster, but it is much less tactical here than it is in Germany. But here at Chelsea we don’t just play the typical style of English football. We have a lot of technically-gifted players."

Taking a leap

Leupolz hopes her move abroad will inspire other German players to make the leap overseas and try the experience. "When they ask me, I have a lot more positive things to say about it than negative ones," she said. "Hopefully it’s a good advertisement for them. It’s really nice to play in another country, see a different style of football. New clubs, new stadiums, everything here is so exciting."

Reigning champions Chelsea are having another excellent season under long-serving coach Emma Hayes. They currently top the table with a two-point cushion over second-placed Manchester City and Leupolz believes The Blues are more than capable of retaining their crown come the end of the campaign.

"We have big goals and I really like this mentality of Chelsea because they know what we can achieve. Of course, it’s always nice to beat the good teams. There are so many big teams and therefore you have to be really clinical to get all the points. I want to win many titles. I believe we can win the title.

"Besides football, I think it’s really important to grow as a person," she added. "It was a big step to come here, but I really like it and I would recommend it to any other player. I also want to improve my English skills as this is really important for life after football."