Leandro Castan set for Roma return for Serie A kickoff after brain surgery

Roma defender Leandro Castan is set to return to action a year after being told he needed brain surgery, and that he might never play again.

Castan, 28, says he is feeling "stronger than ever" as he prepares for an emotional return to the heart of the Roma defence this season, adding that had it not been for the support of the Serie A club, he would have turned his back on the game already.

The Brazilian was diagnosed with a brain cavernoma -- a cluster of abnormal blood vessels -- after reporting dizziness last September. He underwent surgery upon advice of his club and family, even if there were never any guarantees it would be successful.

"It started off with vision problems," Castan told Diario de Sao Paulo. "I was getting better, but just as I was set to return, the doctors stopped me and told me I would need an operation, even if my life was not in any risk.

"Of course [I feared I would never play again]. In January, after the injury, I had so many problems when I touched a football again. I had to learn how to walk, how to run... it was all new to me.

"There was about a one percent chance of not surviving the operation while there was a ten percent risk that it would leave me with a distorted mouth or with the loss of certain movement and lasting damage.

"The risk of not being able to play football again was around 20 percent. At one stage, I decided not to take the risk and just to stop playing football."

Roma stood by him when his spirits were low and said they would support him throughout his recovery.

"I asked if I could terminate my contract with Roma and go home to Brazil to be treated near my family," Castan explained. "That was back in October, but [Roma's sporting director] Walter Sabatini said no and he gave me a few weeks off to work out what I wanted from my life.

"I never felt abandoned at any time and if I'd been at another club, probably I would have retired. Not only did they refuse to consider terminating my contract, they even renewed it and gave me a pay rise. They had just sold [Medhi] Benatia and they wanted me to run the defence."

Almost a year on from his last Serie A appearance, Castan is now ready to do just that, and prove their faith was justified.

"I'm feeling stronger than ever," the former Corinthians player said. "It's my goal to be a first-team regular again. I was afraid I would never play again and I owe a great deal to this club, who have always been right beside me"

Castan has been in full team training with the Giallorossi since July and, although he has figured only sparingly in their preseason friendlies, he hopes to be fit for consideration when Roma get their Serie A campaign underway against Hellas Verona on Aug. 22.