Tearing or rupturing the ACL is every footballer’s worst nightmare. Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury is a knee injury. The ACL lies deep within the knee joint, connecting the thigh bone with the shin bone.
An ACL injury can occur in several ways: a player landing from a jump onto a bent knee and then twisting it or landing on a knee that is over-extended. In sports like football, a direct tackle to the knee from an opponent can also can an ACL injury.
It is difficult to recover from an ACL injury, with a minimum of 6 to 9 months and a maximum of 18 months to 2 years recovery time. Some players never regain their form after returning from an ACL injury.
Here, TOP SOCCER BLOG brings you 12 football superstars who suffered the much-dreaded injury.
1. ALAN SHEARER
One of the greatest strikers of all time, a 21-year-old Alan Shearer moved to Blackburn Rovers from Southampton for a then £3.6m British transfer record in 1992. Shearer tore his ACL in December of his debut season and missed the rest of the season. He returned in emphatic fashion though, breaking and setting record after record while going on to become the highest goal scorer in Premier league history with 260 goals.
2. RADAMEL FALCAO
Falcao has suffered 3 ACL injuries in his career, first when he was a youngster at River Plate in 2005, the second on his immediate return, which was worse, and then thirdly at the peak of his career in Monaco — which affected his career and form. He tried to rediscover his form with loan spells at both Chelsea and Manchester United but failed. He eventually got back to his best on his return to Monaco.
3. RUUD VAN NISTELROOY
After scoring an impressive 29 goals in just 23 matches for PSV in the 1999/2000 season, Van Nistelrooy was on the verge of completing a club record transfer to Manchester United when he ruptured his ACL and was ruled out of action for a year. He eventually moved to United the following season and went on to establish himself as a cult-hero at Old Trafford.
He also enjoyed productive spells at Real Madrid and Malaga later in his career.
4. ROBERTO BAGGIO
Nicknamed the “divine ponytail” because of his hairstyle, Baggio is one of the greatest footballers of all time. But his career might have been a different story as it almost ended before it even started when he suffered an ACL injury at just 18 years of age.
On his return to action, Baggio went on to establish himself as a football icon, winning the Ballon d’Or in 1993.
5. ALESSANDRO DEL PIERO
In 1998, Del Piero suffered an ACL injury at the peak of his career. On his return to action, he had lost his direct playing style and pace but cleverly changed his style by moving to a deeper role where he flourished. He even played into his 40s, eventually retiring in 2015.
6. FRANCESCO TOTTI
A legend and icon at AS Roma, Totti injured his ACL in 2008 and was out for 4 months.
7. ROBERT PIRES
Pires was highly influential as Arsenal won the Premier league in 2001/2002. His season was cut short, though, as he tore his ACL in March 2002, which sidelined him for 7 months and ruled him out of the 2002 World Cup.
8. MARCUS REUS
Reus’ career has been blighted by injuries, robbing him of reaching his full potential. One of such injuries is the ACL, which he suffered in May 2017 and ruled him out for the majority of the 2017/18 season. He made a timely return ahead of the 2018 World Cup, though, and was part of the German squad that went to Russia.
9. ROY KEANE
Keane injured his ACL in the 1997/98 season while tackling Leeds United midfielder Alf-Inge Haaland (father of Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland). Haaland’s reaction sparked a long feud between both players — which resulted in Keane revenging three and half years later with a tackle that eventually ended Haaland’s career.
Keane’s ACL injury ensured that he missed a large part of the 1997/98 season.
10. ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC
Ibrahimovic suffered an ACL injury in April 2017 while playing for Manchester United. Being 35 at the time, it was suggested that he would never recover due to his age, but just 7 months later, he was back in action and famously declared that “lions don’t recover like humans.”
After leaving United, Ibrahimovic had a productive spell in the MLS with LA Galaxy, and he’s now back to his brilliant best at AC Milan. He’s still proving to be one of the best football veterans right now.
Barcelona’s iconic midfielder injured his ACL in 2005/06 season in a match against Villarreal. He was expected to be out for a long time but made a timely return just 4 months later and was part of the Spanish squad at the 2006 World Cup.
12. VIRGIL VAN DIJK
Liverpool’s defensive stalwart suffered an ACL injury earlier this season in the Merseyside derby against Everton when he got tackled dangerously by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. Van Dijk is expected to miss the majority of the 2020/21 season.