Wolves defender Jonny has his eyes on the World Cup a year on from fearing his career was over.
The Spain international suffered another anterior cruciate ligament injury to his right knee in April 2021, just seven appearances into his return from the first.
And, after two major operations on the same injury, the 28-year-old admits he feared for his future.
“If I said no, I’m maybe lying. Sometimes you think the third time might come again. It’s true,” he told the PA news agency in his first interview in English.
“Sometimes the thoughts were there but I tried to put those things (out of my mind), concentrate and put all of myself forward in training and keep improving my injury.
“Now I feel well, I’m 100 per cent but it’s normal you can think (about) all these things.
“It was a difficult time for me and my family too. Sometimes I was frustrated but I came back really well again. So many people were there for me, my family, all my team-mates, all the people working for the club.
“It was frustrating because you see your team-mates training outside and you were in the gym but when the weather is bad I’ll stay in the gym, no problem!
“Being serious, I felt good and every day I woke up in love with my kids, always doing things with them and always being happy. One more day meant it was closer, one more day was finished. I always had that mentality.
“My family helped me a lot, my wife was there but it’s not easy. I tried to improve every day.
“I felt after my first injury my body wasn’t well. It felt like this thing could happen again because it felt like my knee wasn’t stable.
“After my second surgery I felt good because I know this thing can’t happen. It’s different now. I don’t feel it. I feel it’s stable and good. I feel better than before. The best thing was I knew the process so it was easier.”
When Jonny returned Nuno Espirito Santo, who brought him to the club for £15million from Atletico Madrid after a successful loan, he had been replaced by Bruno Lage. For some there would have been uncertainly, but for the former Celta Vigo man there was only opportunity.
“There was a lot of change. The most important thing for me was Rui (Fuste) the physio, who was with me every day,” he said, having made his 100th appearance for Wolves last month. “After working in the gym I knew when I came back to the pitches there would be a new manager for me, Bruno.
“He knows I had a lot of time to recover and he saw me when I came back when I started training with the team.”
Now fit again, Jonny has become one of the focal points of Wolves’ challenge for Europe having scored twice in their last three games after returning in February.
They go to Burnley on Sunday looking to return to Europe after reaching the Europa League quarter-finals in 2020.
The one-off defeat against Sevilla was the first Jonny missed after suffering his original injury in the last-16 second-leg tie against Olympiacos, a game which was delayed for five months by the coronavirus pandemic.
Lage’s men are three points behind seventh-placed West Ham with a game in hand and very much in the hunt for a second European campaign.
“We are fighting for the European position, we have done well,” he said.
“It’s close. I know if we want to get this we need to win everything. I know it’s difficult but it’s our ambition and mentality. If we want good things we need to fight.
“I feel happy. Yes, I’ve scored two goals but when you play worse you can score but maybe when you play better you don’t. The most important thing for me is to keep improving.
“I can be more, I’m trying to get there and stay there.”
Should he maintain his form an international recall could be a reality. Jonny has not played for his country since earning a third cap in November 2018 but he has not given up hope of reaching the World Cup in Qatar.
He said: “It’s difficult, people (who) go to the national team and are doing well. I know I’m out but why not? I try to improve every day with Wolves and why not the national team?
“I know it’s difficult but it’s one goal for me to go there. I know to do this I need to think every day about working hard. My goal is this and I will be fighting.
“My motivation is to come here, improve every day and help the team. The World Cup, of course, but no rush.”