Gini Wijnaldum endured a nightmare start for what was to be his next act at Roma but on Saturday, he made his return to action 174 days after being sidelined with a broken leg.
The Dutchman has not enjoyed the same consistency he experienced at Anfield since leaving in 2021, first with Paris Saint-Germain and subsequently Roma.
Wijnaldum fell out of favour with the former and a fresh start awaited at Roma under Jose Mourinho, having signed a season-long loan deal with the Italian side last summer.
But just days after his 12-minute debut off the bench in August, Wijnaldum suffered a fractured tibia during training and was consequently sidelined for almost six months.
“Sometimes football can be s**t,” was how Mourinho aptly summed up the mood back in August, but on Saturday there was reason to celebrate as Wijnaldum played his first minutes since the injury.
He came off the bench for the final seven minutes of Roma’s 1-0 win over Lecce, and while Mourinho acknowledged Wijnaldum “lacks intensity and pace,” it was a moment to savour for the 32-year-old.
“Baby I’m back,” Wijnaldum penned in an Instagram post, one that saw the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Jordan Henderson and Adrian comment to share their delight for a former teammate.
Andy Robertson, Steven Gerrard, Curtis Jones, Kostas Tsimikas, Dejan Lovren and Dutch compatriots Ryan Babel, Memphis Depay and Clarence Seedorf also lauded Wijnaldum’s long-awaited return to action.
The wait between his debut for Roma and his return was 181 days thanks to a long rehabilitation process, 174 days, but Wijnaldum now feels like “a footballer again.”
“I’m really happy, after five-and-a-half-months of hard work I can finally say that I am back, I am a footballer again,” Wijnaldum said after the game. “A really special moment for me.”
Here’s hoping Wijnaldum stays injury free for the remainder of the season and can finally make good on his fresh start.