John Carew is not totally convinced that his proposed move to Fulham five years ago was because of a failed medical.
“What happened, I don’t know, nobody really knows,” Carew said five weeks ago, on the day he signed for Aston Villa.
Officially, Fulham decided against signing Carew from Valencia in January 2002 because, they said, he had a common ailment known as jumper’s knee.
But when Villa performed a medical on Carew before signing the player on January 22 this year, they found nothing that concerned them and no trace, it seems, of any knee trouble.
When Villa play away to Fulham on Saturday, Carew is bound to reflect on how differently his career might have panned out had he moved to Craven Cottage in 2002.
Jumper’s knee is familiar in the recent history of Villa, for Ronny Johnsen, the Norway international defender, joined the club in August 2002 having fought hard to overcome the problem.
Carew is Norwegian, too, although that is a coincidence. What is significant is that Carew, a striker of strength and experience, knew of his ailment as far back as 1999.
“I’ve had jumper’s knee in my left knee for a couple of years and I have just been diagnosed with it in my right knee as well,” he said in November 2001. “It is extremely painful. If I stretch out my legs on a flight, I am totally useless the next day and I need to rest a lot.”
Jumper’s knee can damage a player’s career but, in the case of Carew, the damage has not been lasting.
When his move to Fulham fell through, he returned to Valencia, who were managed by Rafael Benítez, and reportedly claimed that he had never heard of the club.
Then 22, Carew was valued at £7.5 million and had played in the European Cup final for Valencia the previous season. Carew was, according to Benítez, in “perfect condition to play football”.
But Carew ended up in the Premiership, five years behind schedule and with a different club. In between, he played for Olympique Lyonnais of France and AS Roma of Italy.
He was with Lyon when Martin O’Neill, the Villa manager, made an inquiry. Villa allowed Milan Baros to move to Lyon and took Carew in exchange, conducting a deal that did much for O’Neill’s reputation.
With Ashley Young also joining Villa, for at least £8 million from Watford, there is now an expectation that Carew has the perfect striking partner. The partnership has scored a goal in each in their three matches, although Villa have lost two of those and O’Neill has urged a sense of perspective.