Cologne - Philipp Hosiner was meant to join 1. FC Köln in January 2015, but the Austrian striker, on the books with French side Stade Rennais FC at the time, received a shock diagnosis during a routine medical check when club doctor Udo Martin discovered a kidney tumor that required surgery. As a result the deal fell through, but now, back to full fitness, the 26-year-old has finally completed his move to North Rhine-Westphalia.
"He found fortune in misfortune,“ said Martin following Hosiner’s first training session with the Billy Goats. "The first diagnosis was a shock for everyone involved, but the second diagnosis on the operating table was a positive one. The tumor wasn’t benign, but was limited to the organ and could therefore be operated on quite easily and no further treatment was required."
Having been offered a second bite at the apple, the striker is now keen to prove his qualities. Talking to the assembled press at Köln’s training ground, Hosiner spoke of about the difficult time he went through, his recovery and the targets he’s set himself since moving to the cathedral city.
'It was an emotional time'
Question: Philipp Hosiner, was your initial reaction one of frustration towards the doctor that gave you your original diagnosis?
Philipp Hosiner: No, of course not. The only thing I can remember about the situation was that I tried to convince him to postpone the operation until the summer. At that point I wasn’t aware of the size of the tumour, or how dangerous it was, but after a few minutes it was clear to me that it needed to be removed. I wasn’t fazed by the news and called my family to share it with them. We then talked it over and came to the conclusion that we’d all get through this together and that I’d come back stronger as a result.
Question: Were you ever worried about the fate of your professional career?
Hosiner: Naturally, there were concerns. Ultimately they didn’t last long though. It’s in my nature to be a positive person and, in this case, I was also thinking positively. I then accepted that I’d probably lose half a season - similar to what happened when I tore my cruciate ligament. Almost every professional footballer has suffered a long-term injury of some sort during their career, but you can’t be 100 per cent sure going into an operation that doesn’t fall under the 'routine' category.
Question: Was there any contact with 1. FC Köln during your recovery?
Hosiner: Yes we were always in touch. It was always about my health. I’ve got a very friendly relationship with the coaching staff. It was an emotional time. In the last few weeks it then came to light that it [coming here] made sense in a sporting sense. I’m delighted that we’ve been able to pull it off.
'I’m starting from scratch just like any other player'
Question: How fit are you at present?
Hosiner: I’ve been at 100 per cent for several weeks now. Nine weeks after the operation I was back in first-team training in France. On top of that I put in a few extra shifts with the fitness coach. I ended up having an extended summer holiday as a result, but I only had a few days where I really did nothing. Otherwise I was constantly working on my physical endurance so that, if a club came calling, I could jump straight into first-team training.
Question: Is your transition made any easier taking into consideration the time you spent with head coach Peter Stöger in Vienna?
Hosiner: It’s definitely not a disadvantage, but it also won’t be a bonus. I’m starting from scratch just like any other player. I’m going to try and make a case for myself during pre-season so that when the Bundesliga season begins, I’ll be a candidate for the starting line-up.
Question: How was your first short training session and meeting up with your new team-mates?
Hosiner: It was more about having fun in the first practice because we still had some tough fitness checks to come. It doesn’t make sense to over-exert yourself before that. We just kicked the ball about in a few circles. In the next few days we’ve got appointments with an optician and dentist on the cards and then we head off to our training camp. That’s when it really kicks off.
'Hoping my goalscoring instincts make their mark‘
Question: How familiar are you with your new club 1. FC Köln? How much do you know about the club?
Hosiner: I obviously followed their progress last season. People really enjoy watching the Bundesliga in Austria. That’s why the clubs and the players are so well known. That certainly applies to me because I was actually meant to join FC in January and had been making sure I stayed up to date with what was happening at the club. I know the players from watching TV and now personally as well.
Question: Peter Stöger claimed your story was 'Hollywood-worthy‘. What’s your opinion on that?
Hosiner: I guess you could put it that way, but for me the story had been put to bed by the time I returned to first-team training in France. I was treated normally like any other player. No one needs to give me any special consideration, I don’t want that. Everything's alright.
Question: What was the reason behind your struggles in France?
Hosiner: I wasn’t that happy in France, even before I got injured. The head coach suddenly had different ideas to the way he had presented them in our previous conversations. Rennes had Swedish international Ola Toivonen - the Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Stade Rennais - in the team, and before I signed, the coach told me he wanted to play him in behind the striker more often in the future, which would allow me to lead the line. That would have worked for me, but after pre-season we never played that way and played a completely different system. His [Toivonen's] place was guaranteed, which made it impossible for me to get past him and into the side. That’s also the reason I wanted out a new challenge.
Question: What do you believe are your standout qualities?
Hosiner: I’m hoping my goalscoring instincts once again make their mark with 1. FC Köln and that I can bag a few goals. I’m a striker who plays for the team and is also willing to track back defensively. I’m a team player and hope that I’ll be able to show that soon.
Tobias Gonscherowski reporting from Cologne