Nuri Sahin: "All the suffering was worth it for this evening"
It might only be February, but Nuri Sahin's is already the comeback of the year. After a 355-day spell on the sidelines the midfielder started the tie against FC Porto – and delivered an extraordinary performance.
In his 25th European appearance in BVB colours he won 73% of his tackles, played more passes in the opposition half than any other player on the pitch and was given a standing ovation from the home faithful when he came off around the hour-mark.
"A comeback like that can't be taken for granted," said Marcel Schmelzer after the match. "Performing like that after a year out and taking control of the game is an astonishing feat."
Nuri, what was it like to finally be back out on the pitch after a 355-day spell on the sidelines? "I had a long spell out with a lot of setbacks during my rehabilitation. But it was all worth it for this evening. It was fantastic. Due to the setbacks that I repeatedly had to cope with, I didn't come to the stadium for almost a year; it was too much for me, I just didn't want it near me. This period gave me a lot of negatives and positives. But when I was out there on the pitch, it was great. It was good fun. I went out with the intention to enjoy it all as much as I possibly could."
When did you first hear of your selection? "On the day of the match. When I turned up for training, I didn't actually have my things for the game with me. No wash bag. Nothing. I was lucky that my wife came up with the idea of packing my suitcase and putting it in my car. Everything was ready because my wife had this flash of inspiration that I might be involved."
So you weren't expecting to play then? "No, I was totally surprised to be on the team sheet. But that was exactly what I needed too. Not dwelling on it, simply diving straight in. It was great."
Your performance against Porto was more than satisfactory… "We had lots of possession. It's different to when you're always chasing the ball. That suited me. I felt good. I had a very, very long rehabilitation, but I was well looked after by the club's physiotherapists and am raring to go. Of course I don't know exactly where I stand – after a year without eleven on eleven. But it felt very good tonight and was a first step forward."
What's your conclusion after the 2-0 win over Porto? "We dominated an opponent that normally reaches the last 16 or eight of the Champions League. Getting knocked out of the group phase despite having ten points doesn't happen to every team. But our coach came up with a plan that we implemented superbly. We were very much the deserved winners, and perhaps we could have even won by one goal more."
How do you assess BVB's position ahead of the return leg? "Porto have nothing more to lose. They will try to get an early goal against us. We need to make sure that doesn't happen. If we play like we did today, then we'll make it through."