Real Madrid's Dani Carvajal has given an interview to Diario Madridista in which he talks in-depth about his recovery from a viral pericardium infection, which has kept him out of action since the end of September.
Having overcome the condition - which is an inflammation of the lining of the heart - the right-back is now in contention for a first-team return in Real's LaLiga clash with city rivals Atlético Madrid on Saturday.
Carvajal's interview with Diario Madridista:
How do you feel?
I feel good. Within four or five days after being diagnosed, I didn't feel any pain; I didn't feel ill. For me, that was tough: I knew that I couldn't play, that I was unavailable for selection, yet I didn't feel any pain. I feel in great nick right now; I've worked very hard for these past two weeks to get into physical shape and I feel good.
The club have been really cautious with your recovery at all times.
Yeah, yeah. From the word go, both the coach and the doctors, the physios and everyone told me to stay calm, that the most important thing was to recover fully, because these problems can have repercussions in the future. So we've been really cautious and we've stuck to the proper recovery schedule.
How did it all begin? Can you tell us about the process of the viral pericardium infection being diagnosed?
The weekend that we played Espanyol [on 1 October], I felt a bit of a cold coming on after the trip to Dortmund [in the Champions League that Tuesday]. On the Friday, my chest began to hurt overnight, and I told the doctor about it on the Saturday morning. Though I had a bit of a fever, I trained; I wanted to play on the Sunday. I didn't think much of it, but at the end of the day I had some tests to rule out possible problems such as the pericardium infection. The cardiologist came and diagnosed me with it, and I was ruled out until further notice and booked in for more tests.
How did you react when you were told of the diagnosis?
In his report, the cardiologist put that there were symptoms of a viral pericardium infection. I didn't immediately take in [the severity of] what I had; I still wanted to play that Sunday and join up with the Spain team [for the October international break], but the club, the cardiologists and the doctors quickly put a stop to that. At the end of the day, it's something serious and there's no messing about with it. It came at a bad time, because I missed [club] games and internationals, but the most important thing is to recover and get back healthy.
Was it frightening initially?
Yeah, it was a bit. [You think,] 'Imagine if it's more serious'; you even start to consider the possibility that it could become something chronic and that you'll have to give up playing, given that there have been other such cases. But throughout, the doctors told me not to worry, that it [the infection] is common and that I should be relaxed. They told me just to take the medication and rest up completely, because it would end up getting better.
What was the daily recovery process like?
The first few weeks were the hardest, because for between three and four weeks I pretty much wasn't allowed to do anything. I had to keep my heart rate down, and that period went by very slowly. If you have something like a muscle strain, you're out for five days and then you start to do things, water exercises, gym... But in this case, absolutely nothing. I got really bored, and my body was crying out for activity, particularly as I'm an athlete. I found that a really tough time.
You must have to remain mentally really strong...
There's always a certain amount of apprehension, because there's no messing about when it comes to heart issues, and you have to try to be cautious, stay calm and keep in mind that your health is the most important thing.
Are you still receiving treatment from the cardiologists?
Yes, every little while I have check-ups and for two or three weeks now everything has been coming up as being in order, but we wanted to stick to the proper recovery schedule. I'm having tests every little while to make sure that everything is as it should be.
When you were given the green light to get back to playing, how did you feel?
I would have liked to return earlier, but in the end we came to an agreement to do so after this international break, which would give me an opportunity to work on my fitness and get up to speed so that I'd be firing on all cylinders going into this month and a half before Christmas.
Has Real Madrid's fitness coach, Antonio Pintus, had you on a special plan while you've been back training?
Yeah. As well as working with the ball, we've worked a lot without it, supplementing the sessions that I've done with the rest of the team: running, a lot of work in the gym... It has pretty much been a mini-pre-season.
So will you be OK to face Atlético, or - with caution being the key - will you hold off?
In principle, I have the medical all-clear to play, so I shouldn't have any problems.
Achraf Hakimi has filled in at right-back during your absence. What are your thoughts on how he's done?
He's a fantastic lad, and congratulations to him on making the World Cup with Morocco. He's very young, with a great appetite to learn and bags of talent, and he has more than met expectations - that has been there for everyone to see. He has played excellently, and I'm sure that he's going to be a big help to us all the way to the end of the season.