Borussia Dortmund's Ilkay Gundogan is back in training following a string of injuries that have kept him out of action for the best part of the last 12 months and the combative midfielder is keen to make up for lost time and has vowed to return better than ever.
Having become an integral part of Jurgen Klopp’s midfield since arriving from FC Nurnberg in 2011, Gundogan helped Dortmund retain their Bundesliga crown in his first season before helping his side reach the final of the Champions League in 2013, where they were to eventually lose to German rivals Bayern Munich despite Gundogan scoring from the penalty spot.
The 2013/14 season looked set to be another landmark campaign for the German international although all did not turn go to plan however as the 23-year-old suffered a back injury during Dortmund’s opening game of the season that would restrict him to only two further appearances throughout the rest of the campaign.
The former FC Nurnberg man came out in February to deny the rumours of him being forced into retirement such was the severity of the injury and doubts still persisted over his ability to make a full recovery when pictures were released of the midfielder carrying excess weight.
Road to Recovery
Having missed the chance to be part of Germany’s successful World Cup, Gundogan returned to light training over the summer and has been gearing up for his return to the first team fold at Signal Iduna fold.
Despite a tormenting year on the sidelines, the midfielder’s taste for the fight has not dampened and the Gelsenkirchen born playmaker is determined to come back better than ever:
"I don't feel fear at all," he said in an interview with Bild. "I tackle the normal way and don't take it easy.”
"If I can keep my pace and there aren't any setbacks, I am sure that I can be better than before my injury. I'm sure that I have not forgotten anything."
In April, Gundogan signed a contract extension to keep himself at the Westfalenstadion until 2016 which appeared to end the constant speculation that had seen the midfielder heavily linked to Barcelona and Manchester United although the 23-year-old later hinted that a move to Barcelona was still a possibility.
The Catalan club had even reportedly sent their own doctors to view Gundogan in training and assess his injury for themselves ahead of firming up any transfer interest but no move was forthcoming over the summer as the 23-year-old failed to prove his fitness.
Whilst Gundogan’s new contract will be a relief to Dortmund fans it would appear that the player himself is still keen on a move to a bigger club and if he can prove his fitness this season there’s a strong chance that Gundogan will depart at the end of the season with the player heading into the final year of his contract.
Gundogan’s return could prove a timely boost for Klopp as there’s no doubt that if he’s fully fit the 23-year-old can have a huge impact on Dortmund’s chances of wrestling back the Bundesliga crown from Pep Guardiola’s dominant Bayern Munich side.
Whether the midfielders return proves to be straight forward or another false dawn remains to be seen but it’s clear that Gundogan will do everything he can to make it work and is determined to make up for lost time.