A football emoticon followed by an exclamation mark, beneath a picture of him touching the ball with his right foot at the training session of FC Bayern Munich, while his teammate Philipp Lahm chased him with a huge smile on his face. Thiago Alcântara shared this picture via Twitter on Tuesday, and the statement was pretty clear: Back to playing football. Finally.

Thiago had a horrific 12 months; he didn’t play football because of a meniscus injury in his right knee since March 29, 2014. A meniscus injury usually doesn’t force a player to rest a whole year. The prognosis back then was to rest for six to eight weeks, no surgery needed. But afterwards many things happened.

Thiago returned to training two months later, in May 2014, and promptly tore his meniscus again. This time he underwent surgery. Five months later, his ligament tore a third time, the same problem. Bayern announced Thiago had a “cicatricial insufficiency” in his knee. The cicatricial insufficiency was allegedly due to a controversial decision of Pep Guardiola, who sent his player to Ramon Cugat, a doctor in Barcelona whom he has trusted for several years now.

Cugat specializes in knee injuries, but the word is that he treated Thiago with cortisone. The problem is, cortisone isn’t suited for a collateral ligament tear because it increases the risk of after-effect injuries. Usually Bayern players (even all players of the Bundesliga) are treated by the famous and highly-decorated German doctor Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt. But not this time, as Guardiola decided to send Thiago to his acquaintance Cugat. Consequently, a powerplay of responsibility and competence played out at Bayern, resulting to a year-long absence of Thiago, and Guardiola admitting: “Maybe it was a huge mistake (to send Thiago to Barcelona for treatment).”

Cugat kept silent for several months, until he wrote on Twitter in October that “The treatment I performed on Thiago was not based on Corticosteroid. It was based on #GrowthFactor.” That's all he ever said about the matter. In Germany, the blame for Thiago’s long period of suffering is on Cugat.

“There are no discrepancies at the moment (between Cugat and Müller-Wohlfahrt),” reported “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, quoting a representative of the club and further reporting that Thiago was recently seen with Cugat at the doctor’s office of Müller-Wohlfahrt in Munich.

Two weeks ago, Thiago made the squad against Borussia Mönchengladbach for the first time since March 2014. “An encouraging sign for the player,” Bayern noted. Today, against Borussia Dortmund, he finally made his comeback. So the saga ended, with Thiago back on the pitch after a year’s absence, back with a smile, just like Phillip Lahm on the picture.

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