MANCHESTER, England -- Benjamin Mendy said it was amazing to make his Manchester City comeback on Sunday following eight months out with a knee injury.
The full-back had made just five appearances for the first team when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a 5-0 victory over Crystal Palace in September, and he came on as a substitute in the 75th minute of the 5-0 victory over Swansea City.
Mendy, 23, missed 211 days of the season, but he said he remained positive throughout a recovery split between Manchester and Barcelona, where he was treated by Dr. Ramon Cugat.
"It was amazing after this long time," he said. "When I went on the pitch, the atmosphere was amazing.
"It has been a very long time, but every day I worked hard with the physio, the doctors and the players. I knew with this injury we had to wait and work, but nine months on, I am strong.
"I stayed with my family and friends, who helped me through this moment.
"I have never been sad. Every day I have been with the team, and in Barcelona I was with other players. All the time I have been happy."
Despite his lack of game time, Mendy has already become a cult favourite among the City fans because of his social media output.
And it was no surprise that many supporters headed for the defender during a good-natured pitch invasion following the match against Swansea -- the first since City were confirmed as Premier League champions.
"All the time I am laughing with the fans on social media," he said. "I am the same as the fans -- I go to the toilet and everything, so I am the same.
"The atmosphere has been amazing. I was waiting for this, waiting to come back onto the pitch. Being with the players, for the prematch meeting and everything -- it was all so important for me.
"I have never had a welcome like that. It was the best in the world."
Mendy is still hopeful of being selected by France for the World Cup in Russia this summer, but to do that, he needs game time.
He admitted that it will be difficult displacing Fabian Delph, who has been a big success as his replacement.
"I need to work hard for my comeback but he has done great for the team this year -- and Aleks Zinchenko the same," Mendy said.
"We are very good teammates. But Fabian has been amazing. It is not his position but he has had a lot of assists, has been strong in defence. Every day I tell him he is superb."
Bernardo Silva, who joined from Monaco along with Mendy in the summer, hopes Mendy has returned in time to make it to the World Cup.
Silva was delighted to see Mendy back on the pitch and embraced his teammate after scoring City's fourth goal, which Mendy joked about on Twitter after the game.
And Silva told SFR Sport that he hopes Mendy's return has come in time for him to get fully fit for the World Cup.
"Everyone knows it's not easy when you have been out for almost eight months, but I hope he'll be there," Silva said. "We're here to support him, and I hope he'll improve physically so that he can be there."