"'What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’? In my case, I suppose it’s not just a cliche.” Atlético Madrid star Saul Niguez has spoken about the health problems he has suffered through his career and how he fought back to return to the pitch, as reported by the Daily Mail.
The 22-year-old has quickly become one of the most recognisable players in Spanish football, seeing his popularity rise after returning to the Spanish capital after a loan spell with Rayo Vallecano in 2014.
In 2015, during a Champions League clash with Bayern Leverkusen, the Atlético midfielder burst a kidney under a challenge from Kyriakos Papadopoulos that not only threatened his career, but also his life.
"The worst thing about it was seeing my dad cry when I was still on the stretcher," Saul said. "I told him: 'Relax, I'm as strong as an ox, don't worry I can take this'. But seeing him that worried will stay with me forever."
The Spaniard received surgery for renal colic the season before and Papadopoulos' kick, that landed in the same area as Saul's previous injury, left him hospitalised for four days in which doctors drained his kidney and reduced the size of a clot that had formed around the bruise.
"I had an internal catheter fitted and I had to take care. It left me sore and I was peeing blood," Saúl said as he described the next year of his career. "When I stopped using the catheter the kidney was still not working.
"I was given the option of playing for a month and then stopping for a month and so I said: 'This is no good. If you can put the catheter in again and I can function normally then let's do that, but if not then just take the kidney out. It's fine. I've got another one'."
Saul also thanked German Burgos, Diego Simeone's assistant, for talking the youngster out of his decision, the 48-year-old himself being a kidney cancer survivor.
"German told me about all he had suffered, and he said: 'Saul you are 22! What happens if you have a problem in the other kidney? Use your head. You can't just think about the football. You have to think about your future'.
"He made me see how serious it was."