Nuri Sahin marked his return for the first time in nearly a year during Dortmund’s Europa League victory over Porto. Thomas Tuchel praised the midfielder’s performance off the back of a lengthy layoff.
Borussia Dortmund fans might have been expecting rusty legs from Nuri Sahin on Thursday evening, but they did not get them. Tuchel made the surprise decision to start the Turkish international against Porto, despite not playing for Dortmund for 355 days.
Even Sahin himself did not think he would see the pitch on Thursday.
"When I got back from training I still did not have my stuff for the home match. No washbag. Nothing," he said following Dortmund's 2-0 win. "Luckily my wife thought to pack my bag and put it in my car. Everything was ready because my wife had the sudden thought that I could play."
Surprises aside, Tuchel had nothing but positive words for his playmaker.
"Nuri was fantastic," Tuchel said. "He's been itching to play for weeks and has trained very well."
"It was a great performance after such a long time out, to play like that," he added.
Sahin lasted 57 minutes against Porto, before Tuchel replaced him with Moritz Leitner to a large ovation.
"It was indescribable," Sahin said. "I was taking it all in like a little kid."
"You could see his quality, even if he didn't last the 90 minutes," added Sahin's midfield partner Julian Weigl.
The 27-year-old indeed had by all accounts a strong showing in the heart of the Dortmund midfield, reminding fans why he has played such a key role in much of the club’s success over the past several seasons.
"Nuri is a great player. Everyone that has seen him in training the past few weeks knows he is back to his best," said Dortmund captain Mats Hummels.
Sahin's last match came in the 3-0 Revierderby victory over Schalke on February 28, 2015, after which a series of hamstring and tendon problems kept him out of action for nearly a full year.
dr/sb (SID, dpa)