After eight months of injuries, Rui Mendes made his return for FC Emmen on Monday evening. The Portuguese expressed his wish to leave this summer, but remained at De Oude Meerdijk. The Drenthe fans did not like the creative attacker.
Tuesday, January 24 was a dark day for Rui Mendes. FC Emmen surprisingly won 1-0 against PSV that winter evening at De Oude Meerdijk, but the Portuguese had to leave the field with a serious knee injury after a horror tackle from Mauro Júnior. Mendes recuperated for eight months and on Monday evening he finally played again against Jong FC Utrecht. The attacker was immediately important 3 minutes after his return with an assist to Desley Ubbink’s 2-0.
Surprisingly quick return
Although Mendes’ rehabilitation took longer than initially estimated, his return to the fields was unexpected. “The last week things suddenly went very well at training,” said a visibly cheerful Mendes shortly after the match with Jong FC Utrecht.
“In my first week I was still a bit insecure, but last week I had no pain anymore. I went to the medical staff and asked if they wanted to discuss with the trainer whether I could play against Jong FC Utrecht. We had a good discussion about it and fortunately the outcome was positive.”
With the score at 1-0 and twenty minutes still on the clock, Mendes came in for Joey Konings to thundering applause. “I was quite nervous, but it felt very special to hear all the crowd clapping when I entered the field. After my serious injury and the transfer hassle surrounding FC Groningen, that was very nice.”
Mendes in turn thanked the crowd by allowing Ubbink to score the 2-0 just three minutes after coming on as a substitute. ,,That was amazing. Ben (Scholte, ed.) applied good pressure and I got the ball at my feet. When I turned away I saw Desley standing free. I pretended to shoot, so the defender stepped towards me and Desley had more space to finish.”
Going for your own success did not occur to Mendes. “No, not for a moment. I like to score, but if someone else is in a better position, you have to hand the ball over. I always will.”
No fear of the knee
During the twenty minutes that Mendes was on the field, he did not think for a moment about the injury that kept him sidelined for months. Not even when he stretched all his limbs with utmost effort to stylishly pluck a ball out of the air. “I didn’t think about my knee for a moment. Not even at that moment. Too bad I just couldn’t finish it. I lost my balance a little. It’s those little details that need to get even better in the coming weeks.”
Failed transfer to FC Groningen
In addition to the long rehabilitation, Mendes also had a transfer summer that lasted for the ages. The Portuguese flirted with FC Groningen, but a reunion with his old trainer Dick Lukkien did not happen. FC Emmen thought the offer from the Groningen team, reportedly an amount that could amount to 250,000 euros including bonuses, was too low.
“After the transfer market closed, I immediately resigned myself to still playing at FC Emmen. If I had had a good season and not been injured, there might have been clubs willing to pay the right amount, but that wasn’t the case. I also understand that FC Emmen did not want to let me go. That’s just how the football world works.”
Build up slowly
For Mendes, the coming weeks will be all about getting fitter and making more minutes. Although the Portuguese will not be in the starting line-up against NAC on Friday. “Hopefully I can make more minutes in that match. I will be there when the coach needs me.”