Florian Lejeune has opened up about the toughest challenge of his career.
Lejeune is back playing five months after undergoing surgery for ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.
The Newcastle United defender suffered the injury in pre-season.
Lejeune, signed from Eibar in the summer of 2017, made his comeback in the club’s FA Cup tie against Blackburn Rovers earlier this month.
And the 27-year-old played his part as the club beat Cardiff City 3-0 on Saturday to climb out of the Premier League’s relegation zone.
Lejeune, for his part, feels stronger – mentally and physically – after coming through a painstaking rehabilitation.
But, at the end of the day, I’m not unhappy to have gone through it – I had to work hard on my mental state and, having done that, it’s made me a lot stronger.Florian Lejeune
“This is definitely the most difficult obstacle I’ve had to deal with in my career,” said Lejeune.
“I’d had no major injuries, so it was very hard, very difficult.
“But, at the end of the day, I’m not unhappy to have gone through it – I had to work hard on my mental state and, having done that, it’s made me a lot stronger.
“It’s not something I wanted to do, but it’s made me a lot stronger.”
Lejeune was sent to Italy for pioneering surgery which saw him return to the field four months after going under the knife.
“It usually takes six to nine months before you can play, but I played after four months with the Under-23s and then with the first team after five months,” said Lejeune.
“So, yes, it has felt quite quick.
“I was just very happy to get back on the field. I was satisfied with my game overall – especially so because I had no problems with my knee at all.”
Asked if he was now fully fit, Lejeune told the club’s matchday programme: “That’s a very difficult question, because I feel 100% fit. But I know that I’m going to have to play in some more matches in order to get up to the same level of fitness that I had last year.
“I’ve missed out on five months of competition, and you know the team needs to be winning and needs to get more points.
“What we need now is for everyone to do their best, and everyone works well together.”