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‘A very important player'

Fit-again Altintop aims for starting berth

Hamit Altintop was never likely to be deterred by a three-man wall, including the not inconsiderable frame of Martin Demichelis, barring his path, splashing water in his face and finally resorting to rough tactics. Altintop simply kept his cool, took aim, and scored from five metres out. Hamit rejoiced, and his team-mates were suitably impressed.

The scene took place during a game of water polo on Tuesday morning in the pool at the team hotel in Dubai. Jürgen Klinsmann and his men have been in the emirate since Saturday on their winter training camp - and Hamit Altintop is once again a full member of the squad. “I’m feeling good, I’m fit, and I’m looking forward to the first friendlies,” the 26-year-old declared.

Altintop has been at Bayern for eighteen months, but he effectively rates as a new face for coach Klinsmann. The Turkey international managed a game apiece in the Cup and the Bundesliga at the start of the season, but was subsequently forced into months on the sidelines after a second operation on a metatarsal he originally fractured back in the spring.

Back in late August, Hamit duly started out on the long and tiresome road to recovery. “It wasn’t a great time, but it had to be gone through,” he said. The reward was a brief comeback as a sub in the last two matches before Christmas.