Marco Reus is back: bigger, better, older, wiser. The Borussia Dortmund midfielder, 28, has scored two goals in five appearances since returning to action earlier this month following a 259-day stint in the treatment room – a mini career hiatus that he believes has changed him as a player and a person, for the better.
Marco Reus on…
… his comeback against Hamburg in February
I barely kicked a ball for seven months. The feeling on my comeback was hard to describe. Other than my shinbone injury in 2016, I'd never been out for so long. To be back in the team, the match preparation, the hotel, the coach trip to the stadium – they're the things I missed the most. I'm very grateful to have those again.
Watch: Reus' long-awaited comeback
…his injury problems down the years
I've experienced a lot, and had to endure a lot of setbacks. That's part of life. Nevertheless, I always try to give my all every season, be healthy and recuperate. The older you get, the more responsibility you have to look after yourself. You get to know your body better all the time. I need that in my situation in order to play well. I can only perform to the level I expect of myself if I stay fit for a number of months or even one-two years. In general, I think positively. Even when I'm injured, I never say: 'damn, why me?'
… his source of strength during his rehabilitation
At first, it was very difficult: when the season started, I was a long way off being able to think of team training because I started running again late in rehabilitation. The injury was complicated. And then you're there up in the stands at the games, emotionally quite distant, because you know full well that there's still another three-four months of rehab. But I always knew that the time would come when things would make a turn for the better. My family, girlfriend and friends also helped. I did new things.
… the change in outlook on his career and life after the injuries
When you're 20-25, you only think about football. Every day you're thinking about how you can improve your game. Right now, I'm just happy to be healthy and to be able to enjoy my time on the pitch. You don't get this time back. It's a change in attitude that comes with age and stems from my experiences in recent years. You also have to think about other important things in life, other than football. Of course, every sportsman wants to be successful and to win, but that's not life. For me, it’s about feeling free and doing what you enjoy. I think that's what I've learned most from being out.
… the 2018 World Cup
I'd be lying if I said that I didn't think about the World Cup and really want to be there. But I've never been a person who plans ahead with three or four concrete goals. It's all in the back of my head because it's important to be focussed. I won't make a secret of the fact it's a big goal of mine to be there, though. I know I've got a good chance, if I'm playing well.
… Germany's chances of defending their title
There are a lot of extremely good nations involved. I think the quality is better than in 2014. I'm expecting games to be tighter because a lot of teams have improved and changed their game. It'll come down to the minor details, but everyone knows Germany are always a force to be reckoned with in tournament football. We'll have to be at 100 per cent to repeat the success of 2014, though.
… the important things in life away from football
Life in general, to have a family, kids – that's the dream. There's a life after the career and also one alongside football when you're still playing. At my age, it's important to know that there's life after your playing days. You should devote yourself to something early enough, so that you're not left there wondering what might have been when you do stop. Those thoughts come easily when you've been out as long as I have.
… life after football
I've given it a lot of thought. I can't say anything more, but I've got a few things in mind. Of course, football is my job, it puts money on the table – but like I said: there are more important things.
… dealing with expectations
I've been in the job long enough know to know how things work. You come to learn that the negatives get more press than the positives, but that's a reflection of society. It doesn't just get me thinking; it makes me sad. We've all got big expectations of our own, the media have them of players and clubs, too. Some things take time, though. You shouldn't just see the negatives, but also the positives. Like the fact that two Bundesliga clubs are through to the next round of the Europa League and Bayern are still going in the Champions League. As a sportsman, you do everything to succeed. If you don't, so be it. People need to acknowledge that, but it's a big problem in today's society.