If there is one consolation for FC Bayern München defender Holger Badstuber in the latest chapter of his ongoing injury saga it is the unwavering support of his teammates.
Players and staff took to the field ahead of Sunday's 3-1 victory over FC Augsburg sporting custom-made t-shirts in support of their star-crossed companion, who is expected to be out for three months after fracturing an ankle in training.
"The team was in complete shock," admitted Bayern captain Philipp Lahm. "I'm just so sorry for him because he was really kicking into gear. You could really see that he was back to being 100 per cent. He’s been through so much and I believe he’ll do it again."
Badstuber’s injury hell started back in December 2012 when he tore a cruciate knee ligament in a league game against Borussia Dortmund. He eventually returned to competitive action early in February 2015, only to suffer a ruptured thigh muscle 12 appearances later. The Memmingen native made his next comeback in November 2015, but could now miss the remainder the season as well this summer’s UEFA 2016 European Championships.
"The way he’s come back before has really impressed me," said Thomas Müller, scorer of Bayern’s third of the afternoon on Sunday. "I don’t think that many saw it coming. That’s why I’m so confident he’ll do it again." Testament to his unbreakable character, Badstuber is himself only looking forward. "Once a fighter always a fighter. Think positive. Now more than ever," he tweeted hours after going under the knife for the umpteenth time on Saturday evening.
Kimmich stars again
Until Badstuber is fit to return to the Bayern fold, Pep Guardiola will continue to adapt to overcome. The Catalan is already without waylaid defensive duo Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez, while Medhi Benatia still requires time to be brought up to speed following injury problems of his own. Against Augsburg, Joshua Kimmich once again filled in at centre-half, aided and abetted by the ever-versatile David Alaba.
"The two lads are really strong in the tackle, focussed, quick and actually have everything you need to be a top-class defender, perhaps other than the height," Müller opined. "It’s pretty much impossible to play any better than how Joshua Kimmich has played in recent matches," added Guardiola, delighted to see the former RB Leipzig midfielder enjoy more touches than any other player (128) on the pitch at the WWK Arena - clearly a man after his own heart.
'We love Holger'
Collectively, however, Bayern hearts belong to Badstuber. "We're happy that we won the game for Holger," Guardiola concluded after the champions chalked up their 18th Bundesliga win of the campaign. "We are always there, we will always support him. We love Holger!"
Mia San Mia - we are who we are - is the Bavarian club's famous motto, but right now 'Mia San Holger' feels more apposite.