Injury Update | Roberto Pereyra
By Kevin Affleck
Roberto Pereyra will step up his recovery following career-prolonging knee surgery by transferring his detailed rehabilitation programme from Spain to Italy this week.
Pereyra has been based in Barcelona, under the guidance of top surgeon Dr Ramon Cugat, since a complex operation on December 20 to repair the torn meniscus in his right knee. "He stayed in Barcelona as it was useful for the surgeon to assess him every week," said Luca Gatteschi, Watford's medical director. "To have him here [at London Colney], and then send him every four days for a flight to Barcelona, this is not good for the knee. It was better to stay there [in Barcelona] and work with the surgeon."
Cugat, who has operated on top Barcelona players, wanted to keep a closer eye on Pereyra as the decision was taken to operate with the long-term very much in mind. Pereyra, remember, signed a five-year contract last summer and only turned 26 last month.
"He had a very particular kind of surgery," explained Gatteschi. "Because he is a young player the decision was taken to preserve the knee for the future so the surgeon chose one kind of surgery that takes more time to return to play but is better for the future of the knee.
"The surgeon repaired the meniscus rather than cut off the small piece that was torn. If we had done this [cut off the small piece] we would only have needed a small time to restart training. It would only have been one month, one-month-and-a-half out. When we repair the meniscus it takes more time, like four months. This surgery is better for the future of the player. It is important for the player to have a better functioning knee for his future career."
Cugat is, according to Gatteschi, pleased with the progress Pereyra is making and the playmaker will now fly to north-east Italy to work with the rehabilitation team at former club Udinese, starting on Wednesday.
"We know the head physiotherapist of Udinese," said Gatteschi. "I know him, he knows Cugat and this means the rehab works very well. It’s not that we don’t have good physios here. It’s just that there is not the possibility of Pereyra training with the team for a long time, so sometimes in this situation it is better for the player not to be at the training ground. If he was here, he could see the pitch, he could see the other players training and it’s not good for his feelings. He can work with a better mind when he is away from the team."
Gatteschi is in contact with Pereyra "every two or three days" and reports he is in good spirits. "His feelings are good. It’s important the player knows what we are doing and that we have good communication. Our goal is to have a perfect rehabilitation of Pereyra’s knee."
Gatteschi knows his onions: he worked for eight years with the Italy national team and 10 years before that with his country's women's team. He also has his own private practice in Florence. So he speaks from a position of strength when he declares the injury Pereyra sustained was not career-threatening. "It was not a dramatic injury," he said. "It is not big or serious – it’s the repair that takes a long time. It’s not a new treatment. It’s a treatment that permits a full recovery but it needs a long time. It is not possible to have this kind of treatment with all players – just the younger players."
Pereyra will not play again this season, as he's not been named in the Premier League squad. The prospect of him not featuring again seemed unthinkable following an innocuous challenge with Pablo Zabaleta near the touchline at the Etihad Stadium.
"It was one of those unfortunate incidents in football you can't really avoid," said physiotherapist Oli Leaper. "On the edge of the pitch there is a strip of astroturf that joins up onto the grass. And it's questionable if he was on that and if that made a difference. It's something to maybe consider. We could see from the sideline he had his foot fixed to the floor and under contact his knee rotated. He was in quite a lot of discomfort but throughout the assessment he was adamant he was going to go back on the pitch. All the way through he was adamant he wanted to continue to play. In the end he couldn't but it shows he's got a fantastic desire to want to play for the club and achieve. It's something that will stand him in good stead through his rehab."
The rehab will be overseen by the medical staff at Udinese, the Serie A club owned by Giampaolo Pozzo. "He will start with a programme to increase the strength of the quad and the whole of the [right] leg," explained Gatteschi. "He will work on pro perception, mobility, co-ordination, movement and then quality of the movement. It’s possible he could be back here before the end of the season but the important thing is he has a full recovery and he is not rushed."