As a footballer, you can only consider yourself important if you participate in a major tournament. It is a huge motivation even when you have the misfortune of a serious injury when you are one step away from forcibly ending your career. FIFA World Cup 2022 offers many fascinating stories, and one of them is that of Raul Jimenez, one of Mexico’s most important players in recent history, who put football above all else.
He had a skull fracture
The striker suffered a very serious head injury, following a head-on collision with David Luiz, during a match Arsenal – Wolverhampton (score 1-2). More precisely on November 29, 2020. They were moments of horror because the collision was horrifying. Sky Sports, the TV station that broadcast the match, didn’t even replay it, it looked so bad. The game was stopped for about 10 minutes so that Jimenez could receive first aid. The doctors fixed his oxygen mask and lifted him on a stretcher. From the stadium, he went directly to the hospital, where the striker was operated on for a skull fracture.
After some months, the Mexican player spoke about the delicate period, and his revelations were truly touching:
“From the first moment after the operation, the surgeons and doctors told me what happened and what the risks were. You don’t want to hear those things, but that’s their job. The skull was fractured and there was quite a bit of bleeding in my brain. That’s why the surgery had to be quick and the doctors made a very good job.”
Raul Jimenez didn’t give up
His career was called into question, but Raul Jimenez never gave up. The recovery period was long, but Jimenez strictly followed the doctors’ instructions and after a few months, he resumed training, at first individually and then with his colleagues from Wolverhampton.
“I always thought that after recovery I would go back to doing what I love to do. I never thought about ending my career.”
Like Peter Cech, the former Chelsea goalkeeper who also helped him overcome this moment, Raul plays for the rest of his career wearing a special protective helmet. He returned to the field, and became a key man for the club again, but about three months before the FIFA World Cup he suffered another serious injury. There were many who believed that Jimenez would not be able to play in Qatar. But the player did everything in his power to catch the Mexico team. And the other day he was confirmed in the squad for the FIFA World Cup, even if he didn’t play again in August, due to a hamstring issue.
His new coach, Julen Lopetegui, would have wanted Jimenez to stay at the club and return to his potential, but the love for the national team and the desire to play in the FIFA World Cup was greater than ever. So he took all the risks.
“I understand it’s his decision and it’s his right and I have no problem with that. But I have the obligation to show him what my thoughts are about this situation,” said Julen Lopetegui.
“Zlatan the Mexican”
Before the first game in Qatar, Raul Jimenez had collected 29 goals in 95 games for Mexico. Described as the ‘Mexican Zlatan’ when he was transferred to Europe in 2014, he has profile no. 9 traditional. He is a tall player with good ball control. He has flair and can make things happen, not just finding but providing assists. He has settled in very well in a league where physicality is very important, the Premier League.
Now there are many question marks regarding his fitness and potential after only 30 minutes of play in the friendly with Sweden (score 1-2). But the forward has proven to be a survivor over the last 2 years and is ready to put his shoulder to a very good result for Mexico, who are looking to qualify beyond the last 16 for the first time. The team led by Gerardo Martinez is part of Group C, along with Argentina, Poland, and Saudi Arabia. Even though he won’t be the first choice in attack at present, Raul will play a safety role. No one else on the team has his style and physicality. And most importantly, he feels like he has something to prove. And that can only be in Mexico’s favour.