Hanover - Like a phoenix from the ashes, VfB Stuttgart's has emerged renewed, vivified and determined to make up for lost time.

No longer the forgotten man at the Mercedes-Benz-Arena following a seemingly endless spell on the sidelines, the fit-again 24-year-old midfielder has metamorphosed into the south-west club's preeminent figure in the engrossing battle to stave off relegation to the second tier.

'Means so much'


"A lot of footballers don't know how good they've got it," Didavi told Stuttgarter Nachrichten after making his long-awaited comeback from a serious knee injury against Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 28. "Now I know. My job means so much more to me now than it did before all that suffering."

Didavi's career hit the skids when he suffered cartilage damage in the final game of the 2011/12 campaign whilst on loan at 1. FC Nürnberg. Once fit back at parent club Stuttgart, he managed a further three appearances before suffering a recurrence of the self-same injury at the start of 2013. Only 13 months of gruelling rehabilation later is he beginning to feel like his former self.

'Never give up'


"I wouldn't say I ever doubted myself during the hard times," Didavi explained. "But when the doctor tells you that you'll be doing this or that in six weeks and then it doesn't happen, you think: man, that's just not possible! In those situations, you learn how to fight, to never give up and to never lose belief in yourself [...] Now I want to show my quality."

Since returning to the Bundesliga equation last month, the former Germany Under-21 international has managed to do exactly that. After notching his first Bundesliga goal in two years against Borussia Mönchengladbach and chipping in with an assist in last weekend's 3-1 win over FC Schalke 04, Didavi was again at the heart of most of Stuttgart's attacking play against Hannover 96. Though not enough to secure back-to-back wins, his livewire endeavours have nevertheless proved fundamental to the Swabians edging clear of the bottom three with two rounds of fixtures still to play.

'Every point counts'


"Both teams didn't want to risk much," Didavi said after helping Stuttgart to a priceless point at the HDI-Arena on Matchday 32. "It was tough for the attacking players to create chances. Every point counts in the relegation battle. We just want to win our next home game against Wolfsburg [...] God doesn't play for us, so we'll just have to beat the drop ourselves."

Stuttgart, however, needn't pin their hopes on some sort of divine intervention. In Didavi, they have their very own messiah, capable of leading the Swabians from the depths of the relegation mire back to where the VfB hierarchy believe they rightfully belong at the opposite end of the Bundesliga spectrum. If they can keep their reborn Zehner fit, there is no doubt they have the man to take them there.

Christopher Mayer-Lodge