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Long-awaited return

Comeback kid Thiago 'happy again'

Everyone associated with Bayern was happy on Saturday night, not only because of the three hard-earned points from the 1-0 win over Borussia Dortmund that takes FCB another step closer to retaining the Bundesliga title, but also due to the comebacks made by two important players. Captain Philipp Lahm started a game for the first time in five months, and Thiago appeared in a match again after a 371-day lay-off due to knee injuries.

The mood in the champions’ dressing room afterwards was correspondingly upbeat. “It’s incredible. I want to thank everyone: the club, the coaches and my team-mates. They’ve given me tremendous support,” said a tearful Thiago on his way out of Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park.

Emotional moment

The 23-year-old Spaniard took over from Lahm after 69 minutes, marking an end to more than a year of sporting misery. He last appeared for Bayern on 29 March 2014 in a 3-3 draw with Hoffenheim. “The fans helped me, they chanted my name. It was an emotional moment and I’m very happy,” Thiago said as he described the seconds just before he re-entered the fray.

“Some people think football is only a game. But when you see how emotional the fans were, you know football is life,” continued the two-time U-21 European champion, revealing a little of what he has been through over the last 12 months: “It was tough at times. You start counting the months you’ve missed. But it was an important period too. I battled away, and now I’m happy.”

Better than the points

Boss Pep Guardiola was just as thrilled by the return of one of his favourite sons, who followed his mentor from Barcelona to Munich in the summer of 2013. “Thiago was incredibly important to us when he came here from Barcelona, but he’s had lots of bad luck. But he’s back now and that’s great news,” said Guardiola, who even felt the gifted player’s return mattered more than the three points against BVB.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge warned against over-enthusiasm in the cases of Lahm and Thiago: “Both aren’t quite there yet and need a little more time,” the chairman said. However, Rummenigge continued, “I’m especially happy about Thiago’s comeback. He’s not played for a year. When he has the ball at his feet there’s a certain effortless elegance. He’s great to watch.”

After Saturday’s brief outing, Thiago will continue to work his way back to peak fitness. “I can’t manage 90 minutes yet. I was a bit exhausted after just ten minutes,” Thiago grinned, knowing match practice is what he urgently needs now. As for Guardiola, he has another selection option at a crucial point in the campaign, and a good one too, given the player’s attitude: “My goals haven’t changed: I want to win matches and titles.”