Túlio de Melo feared for his Lille career following surgery
Túlio de Melo has admitted that he feared for his career with Lille following surgery last December.
The Brazilian striker was coming to the end of his contract with the then-reigning French Champions and faced some dark days whilst recovering from thigh surgery.
De Melo said: "My footballing career seemed to be over - at least that's what a lot of people were saying.
"But in a way that's what's so exciting about football. Things can happen very quickly, but they can be really good or really bad. No-one thought I would stay at Lille."
Lille had been forced to sign a direct replacement, in the form of Nolan Roux, when news of De Melo’s injury hit and the Brazilian returned to his native country to recover, with the help of São Paulo's training centre.
He added: "One month after the operation, I started working very hard in the gym. I worked for three and a half hours in the morning and then three and a half hours in the afternoon.
"People think that in Brazil it's all about being a technical player, but I tell you, they work hard in the gym. It's no secret.
"When I came back to Lille, I had a physiotherapist with me and I continued the extra work with the weights. Now, I have a full gym at home and have kept working over and above the team's regular training sessions."
The 27-year-old’s hard work in the gym evidently paid off, as well as adding three kilos to his already considerable frame, he returned to action at the end of last season and managed to score an impressive five goals in 11 games.
The former Atlético Mineiro player added: "I used to be a much more technical player. I wasn't always the biggest lad and I was better with feints and dribbling than I am today. But then I started to grow, and ended up growing a lot.
"There is no doubt I lost some vivacity in my game, but I learned to use my body, my size and my strength to my advantage."
De Melo’s attitude and return to form was enough to earn him a two-year contract extension with Lille, which will keep him at the club until 2014.
Since signing from Palermo for €4 million in 2008, De Melo has managed 73 appearances and 17 goals for Lille.
His side will travel to Saint-Etienne for their season opener on Saturday, where they will be looking to confirm their status as the main contenders to challenge PSG for the title this season.