Holger Badstuber – Still trying to put his injury nightmares behind him

1st December 2012 – that’s when the injury nightmare began for Holger Badstuber. During the 1-1 draw with Borussia Dortmund he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury which kept him sidelined until May 2013.  During rehabilitation he suffered a reoccurrence of the injury, sidelining him for 125 games and nearly 19 months.

Up until this point in his career everything had gone so well for the Bavarian born centre back, after leaving VfB Stuttgart as an 11-year-old and progressing through Bayern’s youth set up and reserve team, he signed his first professional contract in July 2009. His senior debut for FC Bayern came in the opening game of the 2009/10 season against Hoffenheim. So impressive was Badstuber in his debut season that he played in 33 out of 34 league games and also notched his first and only ever senior goal that season with a terrific free kick against Borussia Mönchengladbach.

At the end of the 2009/2010 season the then 19-year-old was called up as part of the provisional squad for the 2010 World cup in South Africa. He made his debut against Hungary in a warm up game coming on as a substitute for Arne Friedrich.  This was followed up by starting his first game for die Nationalmannschaft in their next game against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Badstuber made the 23 man squad for the tournament and in only his 3rd international game started Germany’s opening group game against Australia, playing the full 90 minutes and contributing to a comfortable 4-0 victory. Badstuber then started the next group game against Serbia in Port Elizabeth; however he was substituted after 77 minutes and received heavy criticism for his performance, losing his position to Jerome Boateng for the rest of the tournament.

The 2010/11 season didn’t go exactly how the defender would have planned it. A number of poor performances led to him being criticized by then Bayern Coach Louis Van Gaal. The defender did not take these criticisms well and this led to a tumultuous relationship with Van Gaal. Despite stating that Badstuber was the best left footed defender in Germany, the Dutch coach left him out of the starting XI on no less than 10 separate occasions and in another 5 games he was subbed out.

Jupp Heynckes took the reins at Bayern for a 3rd time for the 2011/12 season and this seemed to give the tough tackling centre-back a new lease of life. Originally covering the left-back position when die Roten were hit by injuries until David Alaba (who spent the previous season on loan at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim) became first choice, “Holgi” was moved back into the middle where he and Boateng formed a formidable partnership. With the duo at the heart of their defense Bayern kept 11 clean sheets in a row and reached the Champions League Final. Badstuber sadly missed the final having received his third yellow card of the competition in the semi final thus triggering an automatic one match suspension.  Bayern eventually lost to Chelsea 4-3 on penalties after the game finished 1-1 after 120 minutes of play.

Bayern started 2012/13 with an eight-match winning streak that included six clean sheets, showing that they would against be competing on all fronts. The club would end the season claiming the Treble, winning the Bundesliga, UEFA Champions League and the DFB Pokal, the first German club to achieve this feat. Unfortunately for Badstuber he would not get to enjoy the celebrations, with the afore-mentioned injury against Dortmund and the recurrence in May derailing his season in cruel fashion. After avenging the previous season’s Champions league final defeat with a 2-1 win against fellow German giants Borussia Dortmund in Wembley the Bayern players held up a jersey with Badstuber’s name and number on it – of that kind gesture Badstuber said “it gave me a lot of strength.”

The Comeback(s)

And so 533 days after the first injury, Badstuber was finally fit and ready to get back to doing what he does best. Having missed Pep Guardiola’s entire first season in charge of Bayern he took to the pitch in a preseason friendly against FC Memmingen. Things were finally starting to come together for him, and anyone with any doubts about whether he would adapt to Pep’s system would only have to look at the starting XI against Wolfsburg on the opening day of the season for those doubts to be dispelled, as Badstuber’s 100% tackle percentage and a 100% clearance percentage showed exactly what the Bavarian giants had missed.

Sadly for Badsutber his joy would be short-lived as his body would fail him again in only his 3rd competitive game since the injuries, a ruptured tendon in his left thigh would require surgery and at least 4 months rehabilitation – he would spend the rest of the Hinrunde on the sidelines. After spending another large portion of his career on the treatment table Badstuber came flying out of the traps after the winter break again teaming up with his international teammate Boateng and helping Bayern to a number of huge wins (6-0 v Paderborn 07, 8-0 v Hamburg SV) he even scored his first ever Champions league goal and just his 2nd for Bayern in a 7-0 rout of Shakhtar Donetsk with one of those feel good moments every football fan loves to hear about. Not only that but he would also play make his 1st international appearance in a friendly against Australia, his first international team action since Euro 2012.

Unfortunately for Badstuber the next round of the Champions league would also be as memorable for him, just not in such a positive way. During Bayern’s 7-1 quarter-final 2nd leg annihilation of FC Porto, revenge for their humiliating 3-1 1st leg defeat 2 weeks previous, another muscle tear would put an end to his season. Not only was this latest injury another example of how this sport can be so cruel, but it will potentially put him out until the beginning of September.

In recent days there has been speculation linking the centre-back with a move back to Stuttgart.  Whether a change of scenery is what’s best for him right only he can say. However the question is now, not if he will be able to come back as good a player as he was before the latest injury setback, but rather can he stay on the pitch and injury free long enough to show it.

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Part time football writer - From Bray, County Wicklow Ireland You can follow me on twitter - @jay_walker_83