"He's one of the best defenders in the world," said former Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola when he witnessed Holger Badstuber's comeback from 532 days on the sidelines in 2013.
Unfortunately for the Catalan coach, he did not get much of an opportunity to work with that talent. Badstuber's run of injury misfortune over the past five years would have been enough to convince many a player to throw in the towel, but not the 28-year-old.
The Memmingen native is mentally tough. It will take more than a torn cruciate ligament, including a recurrence of that injury, a ruptured thigh muscle and a fractured ankle to raise any doubts in his mind.
Watch: The Holger Badstuber story
Even when those around him were beginning to harbour reservations, his belief never wavered. After a spell on loan at Schalke in the second half of last season, he joined Stuttgart this summer on a free transfer from Bayern with a point to prove.
On Saturday, he did just that. His first goal in 2822 days - since December 2009 - and only the second of his Bundesliga career, which has spanned 131 games, was enough to earn his new club a 1-0 win over Mainz, their first victory since promotion back to the Bundesliga. It sent over 50,000 fans inside the Mercedes-Benz-Arena into raptures, threatening to bring down the new roof installed at the stadium this summer.
Watch: Badstuber reflects on perfect day
The loudest noise of all, however, screamed out of the mouth of the central defender as he reeled away for a moment he has been waiting a long time for. Too long. "It's always a really special moment," he told bundesliga.com. "It really gives you goosebumps. It's hard to imagine if you've never experienced it before, but all I can say is it's something quite amazing, and of course I enjoyed it."
It was the headline moment of a performance which confirmed why Guardiola had waxed lyrical about the gangly defender. He won all of his eight tackles on Saturday and he had been on the ball more than any other player on the field throughout the first half. He marshalled a three-man defence which prevented Mainz from getting a sniff of goal, while distributing the ball with the aplomb of the finest midfielders, with almost 90 percent of his 38 passes finding their man.
Had Simon Terodde not sent a late penalty against the post, Stuttgart would have celebrated an even more handsome win. The striker was therefore all the more relieved to have had Badstuber to back him up.
"We desperately wanted to win today so that everybody could see that we can win in the Bundesliga, and it was a great game," said Terodde, Stuttgart's and the Bundesliga 2's top-scorer last season with 25. "Particular praise must be paid to our defence- they did a great job today. Of course I was annoyed to miss the penalty because that would have wrapped the game up, but all that matters in the end is that we got three points."
Badstuber could not have agreed more. "This was the perfect start in front of our own fans," he said. "It was great to be able to help the team with my goal."
'Great' does not even go close to describing his true feelings on a milestone afternoon for the player and his club.
Because Badstuber is back, and so too are Stuttgart.