Tosun: 'Up To Me To Show I Belong At Everton'

Cenk Tosun’s senses supported what he was seeing.

An MRI scan determined he had ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and the Everton striker’s knee was swollen and painful.

Tosun sustained the injury training with loan club Crystal Palace.

“I jumped for a shot and when I landed on my left foot, I heard a strange sound, like bone on bone,” he says.

The majority of ACL injuries – 70 per cent in the best estimate of professionals – occur in non-contact situations.

There was nothing unusual around the circumstances of Tosun’s injury, then.

He’d been dealt a bad hand and was thoroughly fed up – “You are very upset and think the world is over for you,” Tosun confesses – but it is the sort of thing that happens on a sports field.


The options which accompanied Tosun’s diagnosis back in March, though?

They were extraordinary.

Tosun’s tree-trunk legs and the robust cartilage in his problematic knee, he was informed, could provide a short-cut back to Premier League football.

The route being dangled was strewn with caveats but fleetingly tempting, with Turkey qualified for this year’s eventually postponed summer European Championship.

“The doctor said, ‘Your legs are very strong and when the swelling goes, you could play,” explains Tosun.

“He told me: ‘Not a lot of players could play with a total ACL rupture.

“’You could play but if you twist your knee again, you could damage your cartilage, which is fine now.

“‘If you want to stop football at 32, you can carry on with that knee.

“‘If you have surgery, you lose eight or nine months from your career but you could play for longer and it would be better for your body and your career.’”

Tosun dissected the alternatives with his family, who agreed he should follow what his gut was telling him: “Have the surgery and come back stronger”.

“I was very excited about the Euros,” continues Tosun, “the Turkish national team is not like England and Germany, playing in every tournament, so it was not an easy decision.

“But my health was the most important thing.”

Talking from Riva, a spacious, seaside village in the Istanbul district of Beykoz, which houses the Turkish Football Federation’s modern headquarters, Tosun is bullish.

He is emotional, too, when revealing the depth of support he received from Everton during his rehabilitation.

Physiotherapist Carl Howarth, for example, joined Tosun on the player’s two-week family summer holiday to Turkey, the pair working for “three or four hours every day”.

Howarth and Danny Donachie, Everton’s Director of Medical Services, oversaw daily rehabilitation sessions via video link during the spring lockdown.

Tosun joined Crystal Palace in January, on a deal which was supposed to extend to the conclusion of 2019/20, playing five times and scoring once, in a 2-2 draw at Manchester City.

When the spell was prematurely curtailed, Palace chairman Steve Parish publicly praised Tosun for a “valuable contribution”, adding: “He made a big impact around the place and was a really nice guy”.

“I chose Palace to get some minutes, to get some confidence and come back stronger to Everton for this season,” Tosun explains.

“Everything was good there, I was welcomed so warmly and felt so happy.

“Then this injury happened. It was a really difficult time.”

When Tosun replaced Niels Nkounkou in the second half of Everton’s game against Newcastle United this month, it was his first football for the Club since playing 69 minutes off the bench in a 0-0 draw with Arsenal on the day Carlo Ancelotti was appointed manager back in December.

“He [Ancelotti] was always asking Danny about me,” says Tosun.

“When he saw me working in the gym or doing outside sessions, he came to watch and asked me how my knee was and when I would be back.

“He was asking me every week how I felt.

“He had the same injury when he was younger, so we spoke about that.

“It was nice he asked me so much about my injury and my health.

“It gave me more motivation during my recovery.


“He was excited to have me back because he saw how hard I worked and I did really well when I was back training with the team.

“I think that is why he gave me the chances in the past two games.”

Tosun underwent surgery days before lockdown in March.

Any later, he acknowledges, and he’d have been thrown months behind schedule – essentially delaying his comeback to the opening months of next year.

Tosun was operated on by globally-renowned knee surgeon Andy Williams, whose former patients include John Terry, Andrew Flintoff and British Olympic snowboarder Billy Morgan.

“He is one of the best knee surgeons in the world, so I was very lucky,” says Tosun.

“Danny [Donachie] called and asked if he would do it for him and straightaway, he said: ‘For you, I will do it’.”

For six weeks following the procedure Tosun was on crutches and unable to place his left foot on the floor.

“If it is just an ACL surgery you can walk the next day,” explains Tosun, “but they repaired my meniscus as well.

“Danny and Carl did video calls with me nearly every day.

“We worked to strengthen my leg muscles – the glutes and calves and quadriceps and hamstrings – so I could come back stronger.

“For my knee, it was limited what we could do. There was a lot of icing and we worked on the range, you cannot bend your knee or fully extend it.

“You have to force it with pain.

“It was not easy.

“I had an app [provided by Donachie and Howarth] where I had to mark every morning how my knee felt, if I had any stiffness, if I felt better [mentally], how I flex.”

Back on his feet, Tosun steadily advanced through a series of meaningful landmarks.

Strength sessions and swimming “pumped up” the knee’s supporting muscles.

Walking was overtaken by running on a crash mat, followed by stints on an anti-gravity treadmill (AlterG), which allows users to run without bearing their full body weight.


“It feels like you are running on air,” says Tosun.

“It was a nice feeling to run again, even on the machine.”

After two-to-three weeks running outside, Tosun’s stride became easier, any trace of a limp disappearing.

“Now I feel very comfortable, I trained hard every day to come back to this team,” says Tosun.

“When the season started, the team impressed me so much with the new players.

“The first game against Tottenham was unbelievable.

“I was just excited to get in the team and worked harder and harder every day.

“Finally, my knee feels good.

“Now it is up to me to show the manager I am comfortable playing for this team.”

Tosun is contemplative and analytical when he revisits the past eight months.

He is equally thoughtful when detailing why Ancelotti’s front-foot system plays to his strengths.

But there is a measure of excitement, too, as Tosun expounds on the job of a centre-forward in the Italian’s side.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin has scored exactly half of his 32 Premier League goals since Ancelotti arrived with his instruction for the striker to prowl closer to goal.


“Offensively, we are very strong,” says Tosun.

“The strikers are in goalscoring positions more often.

“In some games, I never had a shot on goal.

“Now Dominic is getting two or three clear chances – because he is very good but also because we have creative players up front and in midfield.

“With Carlo, the strikers have to just score goals and set up the game.

“Run a lot and do a lot for the team but when the other players press, you can have your time to rest, so you are fresh when the ball comes.

“That is the tactic which suits me most.

“I am at my strongest and most comfortable in the box.”

Tosun’s period without football allowed him to catch his breath for the first time since signing professionally with Eintracht Frankfurt as a 17-year-old – 11 years after he joined the German club’s academy.

There was a precious opportunity to be at home with wife Ece and the couple’s two-year-old son and daughter, who is one.

Tosun “read a lot more than normal” – brain training books and footballers’ autobiographies, his idol Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s was a favourite – and admits he wanted The Last Dance television series, charting basketball superstar and another of Tosun‘s heroes Michael Jordan’s 12 years with Chicago Bulls, to “never finish”.

He gradually revised his outlook, too.

The pre-injury Tosun would brood when he didn’t get a game – he felt on occasion he was removed from the team without a fair run – but the 29-year-old is more measured today.

“My character has totally changed, I look at some situations differently,” says Tosun.

“I changed a lot during my recovery, but I never thought, ‘What can I do better?’ or ‘Where can I be better?’

“I worked so hard to get fit and better on the pitch, I couldn’t think about those things.

“I am, in some situations, more mature.

“Not like a teenager or young boy.

“I was very, very upset when I was not in the squad or didn’t play (pre-injury).

“Now, I am still upset if I am not playing but it means I have to work harder.


“I am just grateful I am healthy.

“Health is the most important thing in the world, that is what I learned during my recovery.

“The injury was not the worst thing in my life

“I could spend a lot of time with my family and see my kids growing up and play with them.

“As a footballer, you can miss a lot.

“It was a nice time and made me more mature.”

Donachie and Howarth checked in on Tosun every day while he was away with Turkey.

“Seeing how I felt, how training was, how my knee was,” he says.

The player, who came to Everton in January 2018 after four years with Besiktas, joined his national team this month for the first time since October last year.

His motivation during the get-together was twofold; Tosun beginning to stake his claim for next summer’s delayed European Championship and filling up his tank in advance of tackling a stacked calendar with Everton.

He scored twice in three appearances and had 214 minutes on the pitch across games against Croatia, Russia and Hungary, moving with five caps of his half-century.

Ancelotti’s team will play nine matches between Sunday’s meeting with Fulham and West Ham United’s visit to Goodison Park on 2 January.

“I feel like a new transfer for Everton,” says Tosun.

“All the things I have done wrong, I will not do them again.

“I am different now.

“I train and prepare better to help the team more.

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00:42

EVERTON'S OCTOBER GOAL OF THE MONTH REVEALED

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“There are so many games in December [six]… it will be a really big opportunity for me.

“Dominic and Richarlison are doing really well.

“But they are not robots, they can’t play every game.

“I have to be fit and, when I get the chance, I have to use that chance, to be there to score and help the team.

“That is how I am preparing for the next games.

“The international matches will help me, I had some minutes to get physically better.

“After seven or eight months of not playing, you are physically not as good.

“You can’t get it back from only training, the matches are totally different.

“Step-by-step, I will get better and stronger.”

Tosun admits to mixed emotions following his return against Newcastle.

He “enjoyed every second” of his 21 minutes on the field but was put out by the result.

Everton’s defeat at St James’ Park was sandwiched by losses to Southampton and Manchester United, when Tosun came on for the closing 10 minutes.

Ancelotti’s side nevertheless began the season by collecting 13 points from five matches and go to Fulham seventh in the Premier League – five points off the top.

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Free Digital Membership will provide you with the best possible experience when logged into the website, including access to the latest digital content.

Digital members will receive a monthly newsletter and get access to exclusive videos and regular member competitions offering money can’t buy prizes.

Your Digital account will also enable you to buy any tickets on general sale, and if you’re an Official member or Season Ticket Holder, the same login will allow you to access and manage your ticketing account.

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04:10

GOMES THANKS FANS FOR SUPPORT AND TALKS RONALDO AND BAINES

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“We started very well… but have had a small bad period,” says Tosun.

“We had injuries and suspensions for Richarlison and Lucas Digne, who are both very important for our team.

“Hopefully, after the international break everybody will be available to play.

“We are a very strong team in the head and we can change things in our favour.

“We will grow-up from these three bad games and start winning again.

“Our ambition has to be higher.

“Everton has to play every season in Europe.

“With this fantastic team, this fantastic club, with this history and these fans and our historic stadium – we have to play every season in Europe.

“With Carlo we can achieve that.”

Before he puts down the phone, Tosun has something else he wants to say.

He pauses to collect his thoughts and is audibly moved

“I want to thank everyone at the Club,” begins Tosun, “Mr Moshiri, Marcel [Brands, Director of Football], Carl, Danny, everyone.

“I was still at Crystal Palace [when he was hurt] but Everton took care of me like a member of their family.

“They helped me so much.

“I asked Marcel if I could have a physio with me when I went to Turkey for my summer break.

“Everton paid for Carl’s flights and accommodation.

“They didn’t need to.

“It was a sign of how much the Club cares for me.

“I hope, when I am fully back, I will play for longer periods and help the team more.”