After three years of fighting back from a horrific knee injury, Borussia Dortmund youth academy graduate Dario Scuderi has decided to retire from professional football.
Scuderi, now 21, joined BVB in July 2009 at the age of 11 and progressed swiftly through the age categories to take his place in an U19 side alongside Jacob Bruun Larsen and Felix Passlack, among others, in 2016.
According to the official Dortmund website at the time, the right-back, who had represented Italy at U19 level and won the Bundesliga youth titles in 2015 and 2016, had "caught the eye of [then] head coach Thomas Tuchel and [was] highly valued by U19 coach Hannes Wolf due to his versatility".
On 14 September that year, he started for Dortmund in a UEFA Youth League match against Legia Warsaw, but twisted his left knee after getting his studs caught in the turf in the 15th minute and was substituted off on a stretcher.
"It [was] the worst injury you could possibly imagine," commented Scuderi's surgeon, Professor Michael Strobel at the time. "Pretty much everything tore: the ligaments, all the muscle and tendons."
However, Scuderi refused to throw in the towel and was determined to fight his way back to fulfill his dream of playing professionally. As well as being with him every step of the way during his gruelling rehabilitation, BVB made sure - if the worst came to the worst and he had to retire - Scuderi would have a career outside of football by funding his studies in Sports Management.
After making a substitute appearance for the reserves in a friendly against Lüner SV last year, Scuderi was included in the U23 squad for a competitive game in May for the first time since sustaining his injury - 967 days previously. He may have remained on the bench for the full 90 minutes of the team's 3-0 win over Wuppertaler SV, but that did not dilute his delight at returning.
"Obviously it was something very special for me after such a long time out," he told BVB.de. "For a long time it wasn't clear what would happen or where things would go. It's unbelievable to have made it back into the squad. I'm simply delighted, I've trained a lot and happy to be back in the squad today."
However, Scuderi has had to call time on his dream. The defender has decided it is best to retire, before making a professional appearance, out of the risk of suffering further injury to his knee.