Marco van Ginkel felt his career was in danger of ending after an infection complicated the Chelsea midfielder’s knee surgery.
Following a strong season on loan at PSV in the Eredivisie, Van Ginkel went under the knife in the summer of 2018.
The Dutchman had to repair his anterior cruciate ligament with a procedure hardly uncommon among top footballers.
But he could never have guessed how long he would spend on the sidelines afterwards.
Van Ginkel, 28, suffered an infection during the original operation and then had to undergo three more surgeries in just six days.
The Netherlands international was on antibiotics for three months and feared his playing days could be cut short.
He told Goal : “It was not 100 per cent, for sure. I think it was 50-50 whether my career would survive."
Fortunately, after a 983-day road to recovery, Van Ginkel is back fit and playing football once again.
The Chelsea loanee, who has only ever made four appearances for the Blues despite joining them way back in 2013, is now in his third temporary spell with PSV.
Three years ago, however, Van Ginkel could not tell if he would ever be back on a pitch professionally.
"The danger was there that I would lose my career, of course," Van Ginkel admitted. "Especially after the first week of infection, they didn't know what the infection was doing inside the joint.
"After three months I reacted well, but it was going to be a tough, tough time to be at the top level again, to come back and play for PSV, Chelsea or whoever. At that moment, it was more about whether I could walk again. Football didn't matter.
"The infection that came six weeks after my operation killed my knee a bit. That's why it took so long, it damaged my knee and cruciate and I had to be operated on all over again. It was a very hard time.
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"It was explained to me that these things could happen sometimes, but only to one in 200 people after surgery. It is very unlikely you get it, but some get an infection. I was one of them and it was quite bad.
"A normal infection requires only antibiotics and you are OK, but mine was quite bad so I was on antibiotics for three months. They had to clean my knee out a further three times through surgery. Those were very tough times.
"Emotionally and mentally, it was very hard. But I am a very positive person. I think everyone who knows me would say that and it kept me alive, for sure. But I can't deny that I had some difficult days."
Van Ginkel's contract at Stamford Bridge expires this summer, meaning he has plenty to prove to Chelsea and potential suitors during the second half of the campaign with PSV.
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