"He was puffing like an old steam engine," said Jürgen Klopp about Mohamed Zidan´s comeback in the Europa League tie against Karpaty Lviv. "It only looked like it. When the air is so cold, it´s difficult to breathe," said the Egyptian who was "happy and relieved" that after seven and a half months on the sidelines, he finally returned for Borussia Dortmund.
"It was a great feeling when the fans welcomed me back. Just fantastic," said Zidan who came on as a substitute in the 67th minute and already had a hand in BVB´s third goal. "Both comebacks ended with the same result," said Zidan, "and both times I was involved in the third goal." Two weeks ago he scored the third goal from the penalty spot in Egypt´s 3-0 win over Australia. This game marked the end of a seven-month injury spell caused by a serious knee injury.
In "one of the best phases of my career", Zidan suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury in a Bundesliga game against Hoffenheim last season. "I turned my body around, but my foot got stuck in the pitch," he said, describing the moment on 18 April that kept him out of action for so long. "The anterior cruciate ligament just snapped."
After the surgery, he continued the rehab process in his home country of Egypt during his holiday. Physio Thorben Voeste, and then fitness coach Florian Wangler spent five weeks in Egypt to prepare the BVB striker for his comeback. Then he received a letter from the Egyptian military. The folk hero, who helped Egypt to win the 2008 and 2010 Africa Cups with crucial goals and assists (setting up the winner in both finals), was called up for military service.
"I couldn´t just leave the country as I´m a role model for many at home and I didn´t want my name associated with this," said Zidan who was looking for a "legal solution" to this issue. he The military physical examination was only scheduled for the end of August - almost two months after the planned return to Dortmund. "But due to the cruciate ligament injury I was rejected as unfit for service. So the injury was good for something after all."
In these eight weeks he didn´t sit back and relax but worked hard on his comeback in a German run rehab centre in Cairo. Videos and MRI scans changed hands and were sent back and forth between Africa and Europe, keeping BVB team doctor Markus Braun up to date on what´s going on. The final stage of his recovery process then took place in the United States where Zidan took part in a four-week special training at Athletes´ Performance - "a high-performance training."
Now Zidan is back. And he looks to pick up where he left off last season when he put in some outstanding performances. The Egyptian finished with 14 "scorer points", only second to Lucas Barrios (24). He earned 10 of them in the 10 games of the second half of the season (four goals, six assists) when he made his mark on Borussia´s game and so helped them to qualify for Europe.
"These 25 minutes have taken him a little further," said Jürgen Klopp about Zidan´s comeback in a BVB shirt on Thursday night. "He may have looked like an old steam engine. Playing games and training are two different things." Mohamed Zidan may have had a different explanation for the "puffing " noise - but the coach and the player agreed on one thing: Zidan´s making progress step by step.