Wolves striker Raul Jimenez says he “feels like a player again” after making his Premier League return nine months after fracturing his skull.
The 30-year-old played the full 90 minutes in Wolves’ opening-day defeat to Leicester.
It was the first competitive match he has been involved in since he sustained the traumatic injury against Arsenal.
“I always thought that after my recovery I would be back to do what I love to do,” said Jimenez.
“I never thought about finishing my career. There was a chance of that, but I was always confident I was going to return.”
Jamie Vardy, who scored the only goal in Saturday’s 1-0 win, and other Leicester players congratulated Jimenez during the game for making his comeback from a career-threatening injury.
When he plays now, Jimenez has to wear a protective headguard which is modified to suit his preference – and felt “really comfortable” at the weekend.
He added: “There have been different headguards since I started training with the team. I feel confident. If it was up to me I wouldn’t use it. I would play normal.
“The doctors told me it was protection to prevent something. In this moment it could be more dangerous for me than any other player. I know I have to be in the same line as the doctors and surgeons.”
Jimenez does not have to avoid heading the ball during training and he and the club’s medical team monitor how many he does as a precaution.
He does not remember last November’s incident and only recalls placing his belongings in the dressing room after a walk to look at the Emirates pitch. The next thing he remembers is waking up in the hospital.
That is maybe why the Mexican has been able to watch the clash of heads with David Luiz – and even asked the physios at Wolves to send him different angles so he can understand what happened.
Jimenez said the most difficult part of his long recovery was the frustration of feeling well enough to play at the end of last season, but being told by the medics his skull was not ready for the rigours of top-flight football.
“It’s something you can’t feel because you feel good, you feel prepared, but then at the last moment in the MRI or the scans it tells us that it wasn’t fully recovered,” he said.
“That was the most difficult part because you think you are ready, but you’re not.
“It’s not like I injured my knee or something I can feel when I walk. I felt really good at that moment, but it wasn’t my time yet.
“I worked on that really well I think. Even when I knew that it was difficult, when I received the notice that I would not be playing last season until this season, I had to wait almost three months to play again.
“It was just a shock in the moment, but 10 minutes later I said ‘OK, I need to continue recovery, keep doing what I’m doing to be ready for next season’. I was focused on recovery.”
Wolves next host Tottenham on Sunday and Jimenez will face their former manager Nuno Espirito Santo in what he says will be an emotional occasion.
The frontman added: “It’s going to be good. He’s been really supportive during the past months. I saw him three weeks ago. He told me he was really happy to see me play again.”