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miracle Raul Jimenez reveals he could have died after horror head injury playing for Wolves

Wolves striker Raul Jimenez has battled back to top-flight football after suffering horror injury against Arsenal last year


Wolves striker Raul Jimenez pictured in his protective headband during a pre-season friendly. Photo: Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images

Wolves striker Raul Jimenez pictured in his protective headband during a pre-season friendly. Photo: Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images

Wolves striker Raul Jimenez pictured in his protective headband during a pre-season friendly. Photo: Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images

Two-hundred and sixty-one days after being informed by doctors it was “a miracle” he was still alive, Raul Jimenez is focusing on the future and says he never had any concerns over resuming his career.

After sustaining a fractured skull in November, following a sickening clash of heads with Arsenal’s David Luiz, Jimenez underwent emergency surgery and there were initial fears he may never play football again.

Yet nearly nine months later here he is, sitting in the media room at Wolves’s training ground reflecting in detail on the incident and the long, arduous journey of rehabilitation towards pulling on the old gold jersey again.

It has been a challenging, remarkable test of endurance, and last Saturday he made his comeback in the 1-0 defeat at Leicester: a welcome sight for not only Wolves fans but football supporters around the world, and particularly in his home country of Mexico.

Though Jimenez insists retirement was never an option, he can still recall the chilling diagnosis from medical staff on that Sunday evening in London.

“Since the first moment they told me what happened, and the risks. They told me it was like a miracle to be there,” he says. “Because they are doctors they have to tell you the truth and you have to take it. Sometimes this is not what you want to hear, but it’s their job.

“With the skull fracture, the bone broke and there was a little bit of bleeding inside the brain. It was pushing my brain to the inside and that is why the surgery had to be quick.

“It was a really good job by the doctors. The skull fracture did take a little longer to heal than we all expected but it is a miracle to be here with you.”

Despite that alarming assessment, Jimenez was always determined to return. He has been one of the focal points of Wolves’s progress over the past four years, the archetypal all-round centre-forward, and his absence was significant for Nuno Espirito Santo in his final campaign at Molineux.

The target of playing in front of those fans again never wavered.

“I always felt it was maybe like an ankle injury or a knee injury and that after my recovery, I’ll be back doing what I love to do,” he says.

“I never thought about finishing my career or stopping playing. There was a chance of that but I was always confident I was going to return.

“My family always supported me (to play again) because they are happy if I am doing what I love. The club has been a really essential part of my recovery.”

Jimenez (30) cannot remember anything about the incident, which occurred five minutes into the game at the Emirates.

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Back in the Wolves penalty area to defend a corner, he went up for an aerial challenge with Luiz and then crashed to the turf.

After lengthy treatment, in which he was given oxygen, Jimenez was carried off on a stretcher and taken to St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, his partner Daniela and baby daughter Arya were unable to visit him for days.

“I remember arriving at the stadium, leaving my things in the dressing-room and going out with my team-mates to see the pitch. Then we returned to the dressing-room, but (after that) it’s like lights off,” he says.

“I remember the message I sent to our (first-team) group on WhatsApp, talking about how I was good, I was in hospital, I was awake, the surgery has been really good.

“I congratulated them because of the result (Wolves won the game 2-1). All of them told me it doesn’t matter – the good thing is that you are good and that is our real win.”

Jimenez is remarkably calm when talking about his experience, and admits he even requested video footage of the incident from a number of angles to try to understand how it happened.

After returning home in early December, the hard work began. He was advised to rest so the skull fracture could heal, keeping himself fit in the gym and at home.

In March, he was cleared to take part in non-contact training at Wolves’s Compton training base, with no heading of the ball allowed.

A specially-modified headguard was made, and Jimenez had many chats with Petr Cech, the former Chelsea goalkeeper who suffered a similar injury in October 2006 and wore a protective helmet for the rest of his career.

Jimenez confesses that the most frustrating part of his rehabilitation was the final month of last season, when he was advised to delay his first-team comeback until August.

“That was difficult because you think you’re ready but you’re not,” he says.

“The decision of the surgeons was that my skull hadn’t fully recovered.

“That’s something you can’t feel. You feel good and prepared and then at the last moment, the MRI or scans told us that it wasn’t fully recovered.”

Jimenez returned to full-contact training last month, and the only difference now is a limit on the number of times he can head the ball.

It has been an admirable demonstration of mental strength, with the help of family, team-mates and medical staff, primarily club doctor Matt Perry.

The presence of Nuno was also crucial. Though Nuno left at the end of last season, they remain in contact and there will be an emotional moment on Sunday when Wolves face Tottenham.

It will also be Jimenez’s first appearance at Molineux since the 1-1 draw with Southampton on November 23, and the chants of “Si Senor” will be deafening.

“It feels really good to be back and I feel now that I am a player again,” he says. “I feel confident. If it was up to me, I wouldn’t use it (the headguard).

“I’m waiting for the moment when the fans call my name. Before the injury I think I was playing good, the team was playing really good. We are like a family, so it’s a target to get the team back where it deserves.”

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