Long term injuries are by far the worst nightmares of any professional footballer. Along with the obvious pain and suffering, long-term injuries come with the disappointing prospect of being out of the action for months and the ever so intimidating question of whether one can reach the earlier levels of performances again.
Injuries occur frequently in the beautiful game and some of them have ended careers but, there are players who returned to the game after suffering from some of the worst injuries that can actually happen to a modern day footballer.
Here is a list of seven players who survived the vicious acts of fate and returned to the game.
#1 Djibril Cisse – Leg break
Cisse arrived at Anfield from Auxerre having scored 70 goals in 128 league games for the French side. Rafael Benitez was happy to pay £14 million for Cisse’s services as the Frenchman made a slow but steady start to his Liverpool career. The Reds were away at Ewood park on the 30th of October 2004 and it was Cisse’s 20th competitive game for his new club.
Late in the first half, the Frenchman and Blackburn defender Jay McEveley were in the battle for a fifty-fifty ball. Cisse’s foot somehow got caught in the turf breaking both his tibia and fibula. It was a terrible thing to happen and if it wasn’t for the proper medical attention he received, Cisse’s playing days would have been over. He was out for 7 months and made his return to the pitch as a substitute in the second leg of Liverpool’s champions league tie against Juventus.
In June 2006, France was playing against China in a warm-up match before the FIFA world cup finals and Cisse unbelievably broke his leg for the second time forcing him out of the world cup. However, Cisse never gave up and he played for Marseille, Sunderland, Panathinaikos, Lazio, Queens Park Rangers, Kuban Krasnodar, Bastia and JS Saint-Pierroise after returning from the second long-term injury. He retired in 2014 at the age of 34.
#2 Petr Cech – skull fracture
It was 14 October 2006, Chelsea was playing against Reading at the Madejski stadium and the match would be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Reading’s Stephen Hunt collided with Cech inside the Chelsea penalty box.
It was extremely careless from Hunt’s part as his knee hit Cech’s head and the latter fractured his skull. Jose Mourinho and the Chelsea fans were somewhere between disbelief and resentment after Hunt’s challenge. Cech was rushed to the Royal Berkshire hospital where he underwent an emergency surgery and suffered from intense headaches for quite some time.
His career was obviously followed by a question mark after suffering a terrible injury of that kind but, the shot-stopper returned to Chelsea’s starting eleven 3 months later on January 20, 2007, when the Blues were playing against Liverpool. He now wears a rugby style head guard which protects his skull.
Cech still commands a lot of respect from the Chelsea fans even though he now plays for their bitter rivals Arsenal.
#3 Aaron Ramsey – leg break
Ryan Shawcross would probably remember that day for as long as Aaron Ramsey would. The Stoke City defender was in tears after his pathetic challenge on the Welshman and it was a ridiculous thing to happen to Ramsey who was showing a lot of promise at the age of 19.
This catastrophe happened on 27 February 2010 at the Brittania stadium and the challenge broke both the tibia and fibula of his right leg. Arsene Wenger that day was the epitome of frustration and he had every right to be that way.
The Welshman returned in November having gone through his injury nightmares and was loaned out to Wolverhampton Wanderers and Cardiff city as part of his rehabilitation. His career took a turn for the good when he scored the winning goal against Manchester United in 2011 which was his first goal after returning from injury.
Ramsey has now matured immensely as a player and he received a lot of praise for his performances for Wales in UEFA Euro 2016 and is a key figure in Arsenal’s plans for next season.
#4 Alan Smith – Leg break and dislocated ankle
It is way too obvious that something unimaginable has happened on the pitch when a Manchester United player receives an ovation at Anfield. It was 18 February 2006 and Liverpool were hosting Manchester United in an FA cup tie. Something unimaginable did happen in that game as Alan Smith suffered a brutal injury. Smith’s attempt to block a John Arne Riise free-kick resulted in the former severely dislocating his ankle.
Sir Alex Ferguson said the injury was one of the worst he has ever seen. The Englishman was out of action for seven months and he returned to the team in a UEFA champions league game against Celtic.
“Some people are told they will never walk again and manage to do it. It wasn’t a case of giving up for me. " Smith remembers.
He is currently with Notts County and has played for Newcastle United and MK Dons before joining the Notts. The 36-year-old certainly failed to reach the levels that many thought he would but fair to him it is never easy when a player comes back after suffering a career-threatening injury.
#5 Luke Shaw – double leg fracture
Manchester United had to pay £30m to force Southampton into selling their precious asset. A few eyebrows were raised when the Red Devils invested that sort of money in an 18-year-old but, Shaw was putting in some solid performances at the beginning of last season which justified his price tag. He had started every league game till mid-Septemeber but things took a turn for the worse.
On 15 September 2015, United was playing away at PSV and Hector Moreno’s two-footed challenge on Luke Shaw turned out to be a disaster for the latter. Shaw suffered a double leg fracture and left the Philips stadium on a stretcher wearing an oxygen mask. There was a 9-minute stoppage after the injury and Shaw missed 305 days of action and has returned to the United squad for pre-season.
The Englishman is still only 21 and has plenty of time leave those injury nightmares behind him and to cement his place in the Red Devils starting eleven.
#6 Eduardo da Silva – Leg Break
The Brazilian-born Croatian player met adversity in the form of a leg break on 16 February 2009 when the Gunners were playing against Birmingham City at St. Andrews stadium. Martin Taylor was shown a straight red for his challenge and Eduardo was immediately taken to the hospital and he underwent a surgery. Arsenal could only salvage a point from that game after it finished 2-2.
This game was of real significance in the title race as Arsenal were on top of the Premier League at that point of time and they eventually failed to win the league. Cesc Fabregas was named the captain of the side after William Gallas refused to continue wearing the armband.
Eduardo returned to action after almost a year against Cardiff in the FA Cup. On July 2010, he moved to Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk before signing a deal with Brazilian club Flamengo. He returned to Shakhtar again after a year. Eduardo’s career is probably just a shadow of what it might have been if it wasn’t for that injury.
#7 Patrick Battiston – broken bones, teeth and coma
Harald Schumacher’s challenge on Patrick Battiston is one of the worst fouls in the history of the game and it’s still difficult to understand why the German goalkeeper was left unpunished that day. The incident happened in the 1982 world cup semi-final between Germany and France in Seville.
Battiston was through on goal courtesy of a Michel Platini through ball and Schumacher came charging down resulting in a collision with the Frenchman. This reckless challenge resulted in Battiston suffering from a damaged vertebra, a broken jaw and the loss of four of his front teeth and Schumacher’s professionalism was subject to a lot of questions after it was obvious that he had little sympathy for the Frenchman.
This was a major turning point in the game which France lost in penalties having led the game earlier. Battiston returned to play for his club Saint-Etienne 5 months later and he played for Bordeaux and Monaco before retiring. After retirement, he joined Bordeaux’s academy and held various positions.