Borussia Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan says he is happier than he has been in a long time as he closes in on a return to action.
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The 23-year-old missed almost the whole of last season due to a troublesome back injury.
He has had to put his return delayed several times, but now he can see the end of his injury agony on the horizon.
"I've not been as happy as I am now in a long time,'' he told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. "It's fantastic to be able to train with the team again, even if I'm only restricted to running exercises.''
The past year has been a nightmare, according to the Germany international, who said he regularly just locked himself in his home without wanting to see or hear from anybody.
"I just didn't want to go out of the house,'' he said. "My thoughts revolved around when I would be able to be fit again. I couldn't enjoy anything else in life.''
Even watching the World Cup this summer was the source of little satisfaction.
"Because I would have been there and now I would have been world champion,'' he explained. "I missed this great tournament and that's not a nice feeling. I've lost a whole year.''
Gundogan has picked up light training and could be back in action within a month, although given the number of setbacks he has already had to stomach, he is not setting an actual target for a return.
On Saturday, teammate Marco Reus made an unexpected return to action as Dortmund's captain in their DFB-Pokal win at Stuttgarter Kickers, without having planned to return before September.