Roma's Kevin Strootman delighted after making full return from injury
Kevin Strootman says he almost feels reborn after making his first full appearance in a Roma shirt in nearly 16 months.
Strootman, 26, returned to the Giallorossi XI for the 3-2 win at Genoa on Monday evening some 463 days after his last start for the club.
The Netherlands international's comeback has brought an end to an agonising few years in which he has been forced to go under the knife three times due to a torn cruciate knee ligament.
"I don't want to say that this is the start of my second life, but I do feel a bit that way," Strootman told Sky Sport Italia after lasting the full 90 minutes at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. "I've returned to play a real game and this is important for me."
Strootman has been on the brink of a return for the past few weeks, but with the Roma midfield looking strong he has had to show patience and wait for coach Luciano Spalletti to give him his chance.
"The other midfielders have been doing a great job, and we've got plenty of good midfielders, but I had hoped to come back for the final two weeks," Strootman added.
"I'm delighted. I've been able to play 90 minutes today and now I want to get back to 100 percent because I still have to improve. I'm grateful to Spalletti because he has put his faith in me, but so too have the other midfielders."
And so too has Roma captain Francesco Totti, who used his own personal website to pay tribute to Strootman.
"This is a beautiful win tonight, and in particular it is a win for Kevin -- a great man and a great champion," wrote Totti, who came off the bench again to score and help his team turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 win.
That victory took Roma temporarily above Napoli into second place in Serie A, although their rivals hit back with a 2-1 win over Atalanta which moved them back two points ahead in the race for a berth in the Champions League group stage next season.
"Of course we believe [we can come second]," Strootman said. "We've just got to get six points and hope Napoli drop some. Now we've got Chievo and then AC Milan. We're certain of third, but we can get more."
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.