Ulrich is the longest serving member of the current Feyenoord squad. He arrived in 1990 from Willem II, moved to Galatasaray in 1995, and eventually found himself back in the Kuip via Southampton. The big man’s contract expires at the end of this season. ‘Wear and tear on the hip is much more usual in professional football than in the amateur game,’ explains Rien Heijboer, Feyenoord’s surgeon at Dijkzigt University Hospital for years. ‘The pain can be relieved after the first symptoms are observed, but gradually you will not see any improvement’. For Heijboer the intensity of daily training over a protracted period of time is the primary cause of an injury like Ulrich’s.
‘It is difficult to slowly but surely start thinking that I may have reached the end of the road’, says Van Gobbel, who last figured for Feyenoord in the two Champions League away games at Spartak Moscow and Sparta Prague. ‘It was already giving me a lot of trouble back then. But at the time you don’t want to think about it. You never want to think about it. Not yet. Theoretically, I admit, it might be over. But you always try to fight it. I even do everything I can at home. You get a new bed, because you think that’s the problem. You go for treatment to anyone who gives you the illusion that you can recover. And to be honest, I’m not giving up hope, but I am at the same time realistic.’