Limbering up for a new Bundesliga season
14 January 2005HAMBURG - Dubai, Playa de Oliva, Albuefeira, Belek, Chiclana, Jerez, La Manga, Marbella - are just some of the places from which Bundesliga players have been writing their postcards from this winter. German clubs, who traditionally escape the harsh winter for training camps in sunnier climes, are now well into their preparations for the resumption of the Bundesliga on 22 January. And from the Gulf, Turkey, the Iberian peninsula, or wherever German players are being put through their paces, t
14 January 2005
HAMBURG - Dubai, Playa de Oliva, Albuefeira, Belek, Chiclana, Jerez, La Manga, Marbella - are just some of the places from which Bundesliga players have been writing their postcards from this winter.
German clubs, who traditionally escape the harsh winter for training camps in sunnier climes, are now well into their preparations for the resumption of the Bundesliga on 22 January.
And from the Gulf, Turkey, the Iberian peninsula, or wherever German players are being put through their paces, the message is not so much, 'Wish you were here', but, 'It's great to be back'.
For the second half of the season will be a career relaunch for several German stars who have been sidelined by injury for so long that they have virtually been forgotten.
At Borussia Dortmund, the 2002 champions are hoping the winter break could be the turning point both for their disappointing season and for the fortunes of Christoph Metzelder.
The 23-year-old international, regarded as the best defensive talent in the German game, saw his career severely disrupted by a complicated achilles tendon injury which has needed two operations and has kept him out of football for almost two years.
Metzelder, a member of the German team who lost the 2002 World Cup final to Brazil and voted best under-23 player at that tournament, played a few minutes again towards the end of the year.
But he is only now returning to full fitness, playing his first full 90 minutes against Galatasaray during Dortmund's training camp in Turkey.
"Games are now tremendously important for me and are more important than any training session," he said.
Since Dortmund resumed training on 3 January he has been working twice daily with the team. So far everything is going to plan.
The same can be said for SV Hamburg striker Benjamin Lauth whose nightmare time since joining the northerners in the summer is slowly coming to an end. Lauth, tipped for a glittering international career, is now back in full training with the squad in the Spanish resort of La Manga.
The 23-year-old goalgetter joined Hamburg from relegated 1860 Munich at the start of the current campaign despite carrying a broken foot picked up in April. His comeback was shortlived when he broke the same foot again at the start of the season.
"The last months have not been easy for me, but now I know that the foot is holding up," he said.
Nearly two years of suffering could also soon be over for Bayern Munich striker Alexander Zickler. The former international has counted the days since his last match - more than 650 - and is now counting down the days to his return in the Bayern shirt.
Zickler, 30, had virtually been written off after an incredible run of injuries which began in March 2003 when he was diagnosed with a stress fracture of the shin.
Only a year earlier a tumour had been removed from the same area of the leg in an operation which cost him a place in the German side at the 2002 World Cup.
He had barely recovered from the fracture when, four months later and just three days before the start of the 2003/2004 season, the shin broke again during a tackle in training.
On the verge of another comeback last March, Zickler was playing for the reserves when the bone fractured a third time.
With help from the Austrian doctor who treated ski star Hermann Maier after his serious motorcycle injury, Zickler never gave up hope he could fight his way back.
In Dubai with the Bayern team this week, he played 45 minutes in a friendly against Energie Cottbus. "I was as nervous as I was before my very first Bundesliga match," he said, but the appearance went well.
"Not many thought that I would come back. It is such an incredible feeling that I have managed to prove them all wrong."
In all, 18 Bundesliga players who have suffered long-term injuries are hoping to return to action after the winter break.
For others, the break in the season has brought ill luck. Stuttgart's German international defender Philipp Lahm suffered a foot fracture in training and will be out for at least six weeks.
Meanwhile former international Christian Ziege has had to leave Borussia Moenchengladbach's training camp in Marbella after complications set in after recent ankle surgery. It is feared Ziege's recurrent ankle problem could even mean the end of his career.
Subject: German news