Gabriel Milito has expressed his delight at making his long-awaited return to action for Barcelona.
The Argentine centre-half managed 66 minutes against Sevilla in the Copa del Rey on Tuesday, his first competitive outing since damaging knee ligaments in a UEFA Champions League semi-final clash against Manchester United in April 2008.
Milito is relieved to be able to leave his injury nightmare in the past and hopes he can now become a regular fixture in Pep Guardiola's first-team plans.
"I've been able to leave that whole period behind me and return to feeling like a footballer," he said.
"I've waited for this day for a long time. I felt good, but there are still things to improve on. I have to get back to match fitness."
He added: "I'm grateful to everyone; team-mates, the coaching staff, doctors and physiotherapists.
"Of course there have been times that were more difficult than others, but I've always kept hope, above all due to the professionals around me."
While pleased to be back in the fold, Milito saw his return to action dampened by a 2-1 defeat at Camp Nou which puts Barca's grip on the Spanish Cup in jeopardy.
"On one hand I'm very happy, but on the other I'm sad, because of the result," added the combative South American.
"Hopefully inside a week my joy will be complete. Everything would have been different if we had won."