Manchester United’s Luke Shaw says he “nearly lost his leg” after breaking it in two places in September 2015.
The full-back, 23, missed the rest of the season after suffering the injury in a Champions League 2-1 defeat by PSV Eindhoven.
Having also missed two months of 2016-17 with a groin injury and having foot surgery twice, Shaw feels “privileged” to be part of the England squad again.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about stopping playing,” he said.
“I had a lot of complications with my leg and that was the really hard moment for me in my career,” he added.
“But I had a lot of good people around me, a lot of good friends and family. They helped me through it.
“No-one knows but I was really close to actually losing my leg. I never knew that until six months later when the doctor told me.
“At the time, they were thinking about flying me back and if I’d have flown back, I would probably have lost my leg because of the blood clots and stuff.
“I’ve got – I don’t want to talk about it too much – two scars down the side of my leg where they had to cut it open and pull them out because of how severe it was.
“But I don’t really care about that anymore. I feel really strong – and my right leg is exactly as it was before my leg break.”
Shaw became one of the most expensive teenagers in world football in June 2014 when, aged 18, he moved from Southampton to United for £27m, four months after his England debut.
He only started 17 Premier League matches in the two seasons following his broken leg, but he has played every minute of United’s opening four games in 2018-19.
Having been recalled to Gareth Southgate’s England side, he could play in the Nations League tie against Spain on Saturday and Tuesday’s friendly versus Switzerland.
Shaw broke his leg in this challenge with PSV Eindhoven’s Hector Moreno
‘Gone from a kid to a man’
In April 2017 United boss Jose Mourinho criticised Shaw’s attitude, training, focus and ambition, saying the defender was “a long way behind” his team-mates.
Six months ago Shaw’s tactical awareness was also criticised, but earlier this season Mourinho said “we are very, very happy” with Shaw, called him “mentally and physically stronger” and praised his “better understanding” of the game.
“Of course I’ve had an unfortunate two or three years, that’s in the past and I’m just looking forward,” said Shaw on Tuesday, who denied claims he had in the past regularly drunk fizzy drinks and ate too many snacks.
“On the nutrition side, I wouldn’t say I made massive changes. I’ve cut out some of the silly things I was doing.
“I wanted to prove everybody wrong and get back to my best. I’m feeling the best ever, not just on the pitch but off it. I’ve gone from sort of a kid to a man now.”
‘Mourinho has always believed in me’
Shaw and goalkeeper David de Gea are the only men to have played every minute of Manchester United’s four games this season
Shaw has played seven times for England but his last cap came in March 2017, as a second-half substitute in a 1-0 friendly defeat by Germany.
He said he was “gutted” to miss out on England’s run to the World Cup semi-finals, and the experience of watching from the outside resulted in him doing extra training in Dubai over the summer to get fit for the new campaign.
Despite being criticised by Mourinho, he praised his boss but admitted he had a lot of things to improve.
“Jose put his trust in to me at the start of this season and obviously at times, people thought he didn’t trust me,” added Shaw. “It would have been easy for him to say ‘I want to sell him, I don’t want him here anymore’, but I think he’s always believed in me.
“Mentally it made me come out the other side and made me stronger, to want to prove to him that I can do what sometimes, in the last couple of seasons, he’d said I couldn’t.
“I think, at times, he got frustrated with me because he knew I could do better. Maybe, when I look back, at times maybe he was right.
“I had a chat with the manager before the season and he said he wanted me to stay and fight for my place, and that motivated me a lot in the off-season. I came back and played games in pre-season, and now I have my fitness fully and everything is good.”