Assou-Ekotto became football’s forgotten man, sidelined for 18 months with a serious knee injury in 2007. He returned to the game transformed.
He explained to the Sunday Mirror: “When your surgeon tells you that you might not play again I think it puts things into perspective.
“You realise there are more important things in life than kicking a ball around.
“I have never bought into the hypocrisy of football but perhaps I’m more strident in my views now. I’m lucky and appreciate what I have, but football is just a job, a means to an end. I had a lot of time to think and reflect when I was injured. I even kept the severity of my injury secret. I didn’t tell my mother because she would have cried.
“It would only have upset her needlessly. Her tears wouldn’t have made my injury better. Besides I could have always cried for myself.”