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‘Things are looking up’

Schlaudraff delighted with belated debut

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The 84th minute of the UEFA Cup meeting with Belenenses effectively ushered in a new chapter in Jan Schlaudraff’s footballing career. The 24-year-old striker took over from Franck Ribéry, completing his comeback from a three-and-a-half month lay-off following back surgery and simultaneously making his debut for Germany’s most successful club.

“It was tremendous,” Schlaudraff reported afterwards. “I was thrilled about making the squad after just a handful of training sessions, and I was even more delighted that the match situation allowed me to come straight in and make my debut.“

Technically excellent

Following a long rehab programme, Schlaudraff joined the full squad programme just nine days ago and immediately made an impact. “He’s shown us he’s a technically brilliant player who likes to take on his man,” coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said in praise of the man wearing the squad number 19.

In his few brief minutes on the field against Belenenses, the striker capped three times by Germany offered a glimpse of his ability with a couple of solo dribbles against the Portuguese club’s deep-lying defence, and also delivered a first-rate cross which the unmarked Hamit Altintop unfortunately headed over the bar.

A great ten minutes

“It was a great ten minutes,” reported Schlaudraff, now set to gain match practice in the third division with the reserves and “recover my rhythm as quickly as possible.“ Recovering full fitness remains his first priority: “It’s been a very, very difficult start in Munich, so I have to make sure I return to a physically good state. I have a special set of exercises for my back to keep everything stable.“

The switch from Aachen to Munich “was difficult enough in any case,” Schlaudraff continued, especially when health problems prevented him doing his job for long weeks at a time. On top of that, the player continued to suffer back pain despite the corrective surgery. “I didn’t know whether it would turn out all right. It was hard to stay positive,“ he revealed.

No home and hearth

To cap it all, Jan’s best-laid plans to ease the transition to Bavaria went awry through no fault of his own. “My furniture supplier went bankrupt, and we had to start again from scratch.“ The player has lived in Munich since late June, but his furniture was only delivered at the beginning of the week. “It’s not what you call the best of starts,” he commented wryly.

Schlaudraff’s mood has improved dramatically since Thursday evening. He has moved into his chosen apartment, unpacked his table and chairs, and returned to the field of play. “The couple of minutes today will spur him on to make his mark here,” observed Hitzfeld. Schlaudraff is ready for the challenge: “I’m fit and the pain’s gone away. For the first time, things are looking up.“