Borussia Dortmund midfielder Nuri Sahin hasn’t played since March 2015. After a lengthy recovery from a mysterious injury, the Turkey international is finally making progress, taking part in team training during the Black and Yellows’ training camp in Dubai. In this interview with local paper WAZ, the 27-year-old talks about this difficult time in his career and his way back onto the pitch.
Nuri Sahin: “Why yes, it was the derby. We won 3-0.”
That was in February, one year ago. Are you hoping for a such a stage for your comeback?
Sahin: “I’m working for the day to be back on the pitch with my boys in the Bundesliga. But it’s not like I’m thinking it has to be the derby, I just want to play football again.”
This is your 11th winter training camp – is this one special, since it’s marking a turnaround?
Sahin: “I’m in business for that long already? (laughs) I don’t know whether it’s a turnaround. I’m a religious man and I think everything happens for a reason, such as this injury. It’s definitely a challenge I have to deal with, but I think I’m doing that quite well.
How do you experience the training camp personally?
Sahin: “I’m on a good way. I’ve trained with the team each day. I’m still not 100 per cent fit, which is impossible, I’m working to reach the level and pace step by step, but I don’t want to put a time frame on my return.”
You value your family. Was there a moment when you told your four-year-old son Ömer that you had doubts to ever return to a football field?
Sahin: “No. I knew it would take a long time. There were days when I felt really well. I had slight hiccups on others. I’m very sure that my son will get to see me play a lot of games for Borussia Dortmund in the future. If I didn’t put any faith into that, I wouldn’t have to come to the training camp.”
Sahin: “The football is to blame for that. I’ve got 11 years of professional football in my bones. Some careers go along without any injuries, I wasn’t so lucky this time. My body signaled to me that it needed a break. Football taught me a lot of beautiful things. I would be wrong to condemn it now. I owe a lot to this ball.”
Were there situations when you put a lot of pressure on yourself?
Sahin: “I’d be lying if I said that I was always in a good mood. But I was always strong enough to tell myself: ‘It’ll be better tomorrow.’ – which is a great achievement for me mentally.”
Ilkay Gündogan was in a comparable situation. Did you guys exchange thoughts?
Sahin: “We talked about our situations when he was injured back then and we also did so now. But you have to limit those conversations, otherwise it’ll drag you down. At some point you just don’t want to hear about it anymore. Also the coach backed me extremely well, I can’t thank him enough for that. The new coaching staff welcomed an injured player who didn’t play a single match in the first half of the season. The way they treated me cannot be taken for granted.”
Once back to your full strength, which role do you think you’ll play within the team?
Sahin: “I know that the kind of football the coach wants to play suits me. But I’m not ready to say that I’ll ignite the competition within the team just yet. But I don’t define myself by my role within the team. It’s the titles with the boys that count for me. No player can allow himself to be selfish nowadays.”
Sahin: “The Bundesliga isn’t in our own hands anymore, FC Bayern were more consistent than us. But we have the quality and the ambition to win the Europa League. We are used to playing Champions League football for years now, our squad is filled with Champions League players.”
The Europa League gains a lot of Champions League quality in the knock-out stages.
Sahin: “Which also means that one mistake could mean the end for you in this competition. In the group stages you might lose a couple per cent mentally, because the name is Qäbälä and not Real Madrid or Arsenal. Everyone needs to be aware that an European trophy is on the line. If you win that, you get the chance to win another: the Supercup. Not everyone can say for himself that he has won two European titles. We decide for ourselves where our limit is.”
You can also reach a lot with your national team. The European Championship takes place this summer.
Sahin: “Returning to full health is my top priority for now. The order is as follows: Borussia Dortmund, national team – for which I have to prove myself again first. Even though I was a part of the national team for the last two years, the coach can’t call me up if I don’t play in Dortmund.”