Brighton midfielder Beram Kayal has credited the inspirational example set by Zlatan Ibrahimovic with helping him bounce back from serious injury.
Manchester United forward Ibrahimovic suffered career-threatening knee ligament damage in April, cutting short his 2016/17 season and raising question marks about his Old Trafford future.
Despite the severe setback, the 36-year-old former Sweden international remained upbeat and regularly chronicled his remarkable recovery on social media before returning to Premier League action in November.
The horror injury came just a few months before Albion player Kayal suffered one of his own, breaking his lower leg in a pre-season friendly against Atletico Madrid to delay his dream of playing top-flight football in England.
After eight operations, the Israel international finally returned to first-team action in mid-December and, ahead of Monday’s FA Cup clash with Crystal Palace – a game he is expected to start – he praised the dedication of Ibrahimovic.
“Everything he did in every day, people need to learn from his winning mentality,” said Kayal, who posted a motivational video of Ibrahimovic on his Instagram account a couple of weeks after suffering his injury in August.
“For me, he’s one of the best in the game, probably for the last 15 years he’s proved it every year.
“Everywhere he went – AC Milan, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juve, Paris St Germain – he brought a winning mentality.
“I looked at what he did when he was injured and was not playing, the way he reacted and worked hard, the confidence he had to be back.
“It gave me a top model to look up to and learn from.”
Kayal’s fractured fibula has restricted him to three top-flight appearances this season, although Brighton manager Chris Hughton has not been afraid to throw him in at the deep end with his only starts coming in the games at Tottenham and Chelsea.
The former Celtic man faces another tough assignment on Monday when Albion’s bitter rivals Palace visit the Amex Stadium in the third round of the cup and he hopes to use his experiences of the Old Firm derby to ensure it is the Seagulls fans who go home smiling.
“I played in a few derbies but to play in the Old Firm was the best experience I had in my life,” the 29-year-old added.
“I didn’t have this opportunity now I am at Brighton but the fans are speaking about this game against Palace.
“It means a lot to the club and the fans. It’s always a good feeling to play the big derby games.
“It’s not just the games. It’s the atmosphere around the game with the fans in the street, when you are walking in the city.
“You can feel how proud they are of the players here and they want us do well, especially in this game.”