Created on 07-12-2008 at 00:00 AM
When the players emerged to warm up ahead of Saturday’s third division clash between the Bayern and VfB Stuttgart reserves, the 650 crowd at the Grünwald stadium in Munich had cause to rub their eyes in semi-disbelief. The home team’s number 29 was a midfielder who last pulled on an FCB jersey in anger on 23 August, namely Hamit Altintop.
Just over four months after suffering a reaction to a broken metatarsal last spring, a setback which required a second round of surgery, Hamit made a successful comeback in a 1-1 draw between the reserve sides. Two days ahead of his 26th birthday, the Turkey star completed the full 90 minutes, showing remarkable energy and precision after such a long lay-off, and earning plaudits for a lively performance.
Room to improve
“He worked very hard,” FCB reserve boss Hermann Gerland commented, “he’s been injured for a long time, so you can’t expect him to move mountains.” Following his first competitive run-out since the senior side’s 1-1 Bundesliga draw away to Borussia Dortmund 15 weeks ago, Altintop himself was happy with his display. “Overall, I think it was OK,” the 25-year-old told fcbayern.de. The player acknowledged there was “plenty of room for improvement,” although that will assuredly come as he gains match practice.
The Turkey international insisted he was not surprised at managing the whole game, despite unpleasantly chilly conditions and a difficult playing surface. “I resumed the squad training programme two weeks ago, and I worked hard with [rehab coach] Thomas Wilhelmi before that. It’s easier to come back if you’ve been honest with yourself and put in the hours.”
At full strength
With two away games in Lyon and Stuttgart before the mid-season break, Altintop is hoping for at least a brief appearance for the senior team. “I’d definitely like to play, because I’m fit and training with the squad.” The midfielder is keen to round off an eventful year with a Champions league outing against serial French champions Olympique Lyon. “If I make the trip, I’d like to get on the field,” he said, without issuing any kind of demand for a place in the team.
Ahead of the final round of group matches in Europe’s elite club competition, FCB boss Jürgen Klinsmann thus faces an embarrassment of riches in selection terms. “Everyone’s fit,” reported the coach, who is probably only without long-term injury victim Willy Sagnol. A minor question-mark remains over Lukas Podolski, who has shaken off back problems only to be struck by gastroenteritis. “It’s a case of wait and see,” commented Klinsmann, hinting that both Altintop and Podolski could still see playing time prior to the winter break.