Ibra will play in the English Premier League again, says surgeon who operated on his knee

Sweden striker is expected to back in action after undergoing successful surgery in the US but timeframe not known

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 September, 2017, 7:06pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 September, 2017, 10:54pm

Hong Kong-born American professor Freddie Fu Ho-keung, the orthopaedic surgeon who repaired Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s damaged knee, has expressed confidence the Manchester United star would return to top-flight competition, but declined to predict when he would be fit to do so.

“I have treated almost 60 professional players and Ibrahimovic is certainly one of the best and strongest players I have ever operated on,” said Fu, who was in Hong Kong this week to deliver the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Dr Lui Che Woo Distinguished Professor Public Lecture.

The 35-year-old Swedish striker suffered a career-threatening injury in April after falling awkwardly during the Uefa Europa League quarter-final second leg match against Anderlecht at Old Trafford. Ibrahimovic was found to have serious ligament damage in his right knee and was sent to the United States to be treated by Fu.

“He has a very strong attitude,” said Fu of Ibrahimovic, adding that he found the Swede to be a “physically and mentally exceptionally strong player”. “Even before the operation, he firmly believed he would come back in his soccer career and would not retire just because of the injury.

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“And when we examined his knee, other than the ligament injuries he sustained, the joint, the muscles and other parts of his knee are all in top-notch condition, just like those of a 15-year-old boy and not a soccer player who has been [subjecting his knee to the rigours of] fierce physical competition for so many years.

“His operation went very smoothly.”

The chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has performed more than 6,000 anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) operations since the early 1980s and is a world leader in anatomic reconstruction of the ACL.

After sustaining the injury, Ibrahimovic was set to leave Manchester United at the end of his contract in June but on August 24, it was announced Ibrahimovic had signed a new one-year contract with the EPL club. However, a date for his return to the team has not yet been announced.

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But Fu, who still keeps contact with Ibrahimovic to monitor the player’s progress, remains upbeat the player will play again, although he would not predict when.

“I have no worry about his injury as it always takes time to fully recover,” he said. “In fact the EPL has just started and I am sure Manchester United would not need the player urgently for any crucial game either in the league or European competitions.

“He is very strong but soccer is still a combative sport. As a doctor, of course I want to see him return as slow as possible, only when he is fully fit for the game. There have been many cases of a player returning prematurely with bad consequences.”

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Born into an affluent family with a long tradition in Hong Kong, Fu said he spent too much time on sports during his secondary-school education at St Paul’s College and failed to secure a place at the University of Hong Kong, forcing him to go to the US to further his studies.

“Hong Kong provided me all the basic ingredients in learning and when I kept focused on learning in the US, I immediately became an outstanding student,” recalled Fu.

Fu is proud of his roots in Hong Kong. “I can still speak Cantonese fluently, which is not easy for anyone who has spent over 40 years in the States,” he said. “I still love coming back to Hong Kong and so do my children, especially as they can visit my mother who is now 94.

“It’s always an enjoyable evening walk when you stroll along Bonham Road, where my family have lived for more than a century. But the most important thing is you can have the best food in Hong Kong, best in the world.”