“It’s wonderful to be back out on the pitch training with the team, even though I’m only doing running exercises,” the 23-year-old said in an interview with Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper. “Now I’m enjoying being back with the lads and being able to watch them play football.”
Gündogan has not taken part in a competitive match since 14 August 2013, when a back injury forced him off the field in the 27th minute of Germany’s friendly against Paraguay. He had even put the Nationalmannschaft in front nine minutes earlier, despite feeling pain “after 10-15 minutes.” The Dortmund No8 confessed he had “felt something in his back” the previous week but decided to meet up with the national team anyway because it “was not a big problem.” Following treatment from Germany physio Klaus Eder, Gündogan took to the pitch against Paraguay “feeling really good.”
Initially he did not believe the injury was as serious as it turned out to be: “At the beginning I was convinced I’d be out for a maximum of three to four weeks. But then time just dragged on and nothing happened. Suddenly I was out for eight weeks and then three months without any sign of improvement.” After receiving numerous differing diagnoses from “so many different doctors”, it was not until he underwent relatively minor surgery on his spine in Munich two months ago that Gündogan began to recover.
Step by step
Signing a contract extension back in April also played an important role for Gündogan: “I’m delighted the club have put their faith in me despite not having played for a year. I need that trust too.” He was equally grateful for the support of his team-mates throughout his lengthy absence: “Mats Hummels said to me that a lot of big players have also lost a year in their careers.”
Nevertheless, in spite of his recent progress Gündogan is determined to build towards his Bundesliga comeback slowly. "At the moment I don't want to make any decisions about the future. All I want to do is play football again."