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Mask for Martin

Demichelis keen on rapid comeback

A black eye is the only visible sign of Martin Demichelis’ serious facial injuries, sustained two weeks ago in a friendly between Argentina and Germany in Munich. The defender suffered multiple facial fractures, to the eye socket (an orbital floor fracture), the cheekbone and the upper jaw. “There were five breaks altogether, and that’s the number of plates I had inserted,” he reported on Wednesday, “but it’s slowly getting better.”

After colliding heavily with Germany skipper Michael Ballack, Demichelis was stretchered from the field and taken straight to hospital, where he underwent surgery the same night. “The doctor told me it’s the most serious operation I’ve had so far,” revealed the Argentine, who briefly feared for his place at the World Cup in South Africa. “I was scared until we got to hospital. I saw my face in the mirror and didn’t have a clue what had happened.”

Special protective mask

The 29-year-old now say he feels “much, much better,” although it is an injury “which won’t clear up in a hurry, unfortunately.” Apart from the black eye, Micho is currently without feeling in one side of his face due to a damaged nerve. “The whole of the right side is numb. It’s a really odd feeling,” he said. At present, when Martin attempts to smile, all that happens is a slight upward movement of the left corner of his mouth. The problem may take up to six months to clear.

However, the player is determined to return to the field of play as soon as possible. Demichelis resumed jogging on Tuesday, “and it was mentally uplifting,” he reported. On the Thursday following next week’s DFB Cup semi-final trip to Schalke, he is hoping to resume squad training with the help of a specially fitted protective mask. “It’ll basically mean I can do the full programme,” he explained.

Crowds flock to Maradona

“There’s no plan or date pencilled in for me to resume playing though,” Micho reported, determined not to put himself under unnecessary pressure. However, he is hoping to make the squad for Bayern’s Champions League quarter-final first leg in late March. “I need to hit the gas and get fit again as quickly as I can. I need to see how I get on in training, and then it’s up to the coach when I play.”

Demichelis was heartened and motivated in hospital by a visit from his national coach Diego Maradona, who called by on the day after the Germany clash to check on his defender’s state of health. “It was a terrific moment for me personally – and for the hospital staff,” Demichelis said, reporting the appearance of a veritable crowd of onlookers.

No word from Ballack

Micho expressed disappointment that his former team-mate Ballack had failed to make contact in any way. “He’s a great footballer, but I’m disappointed on a human level. We fought side-by-side at Bayern for three years and we were good team-mates, so you’d like to think there’d be a human touch. He could have sent a text, called, or at least asked after the match how I was doing.” Demichelis' visible wounds are almost gone, but a mental hurt persists.