Andre Gomes was writhing in agony on the Goodison turf, refusing oxygen from Everton’s doctor and frantically avoiding a glimpse at his dislocated ankle as it was twice twisted back into place.
As he yelled in pain it was the horrified look of spectators – recoiling like witnesses at the scene of an accident – that left a scar as deep as that on his broken fibula.
“While I’m screaming I can see the crowd in the stand looking at me and going like this,” he says, imitating the image from Edvard Munch’s The Scream.
“I have the corner of the main stand looking at me and taking their kids out. I’m really upset and lifted my knee so I couldn’t see my foot. I didn’t want that picture of the trauma in my mind. I was feeling it. When I fell I knew straight away something was wrong because I was already in pain. I knew something was pointing in the wrong direction.
“I remember Cenk [Tosun] and Richarlison close by. Luis Boa Morte [Everton’s former assistant manager] was next to me and I think I punched him. It was harder mentally than physically.”
While Gomes received emergency treatment, there was commotion on the touchline. His brother Nuno, who had brought Gomes’ niece to Goodison for her first match, was being restrained.
“He wanted to run on the pitch. I did not see exactly but people told me the stewards were saying: ‘No, no, don’t do that.’
“It was really hard for everybody. I was like: ‘Why me?’ I wondered why I didn’t pass one second before or do something different.
“It is a horrible thing. When I was at Benfica I had a close friend who broke his leg in front of me, Silvio. It is the type of injury I do not feel comfortable seeing. I couldn’t imagine it happening to me, so when it did I was sad and angry – not against the players – but against the moment.”
That Gomes so swiftly recovered – facing Arsenal last weekend 112 days on from that harrowing November afternoon against Tottenham Hotspur – is a triumph of medical skill and personal will.
That he can detail his experience in such graphic terms says even more about Gomes’ strength and courage.
The unsung hero in the story is Everton’s club doctor, John Hollingsworth, whose expertise probably saved Gomes’ career, and certainly ensured he returned so soon.
“Yes. He [Dr Hollingsworth] was unbelievable. It was really important, actually,” Gomes explains.
“He was really fast. I rejected the oxygen because with the adrenaline I was mad, I was angry. I was feeling everything. I wanted to be sure he was doing all the things properly. Obviously I did my ligaments and a bone injury. He put it in place two times, rotating it and then putting it in.
“I knew he wanted to do it so it was easier for me. I was making sure that it was in the right place so I could go to the hospital. It was painful. Really painful. But it was more mental. I was lucky because it could have been worse and the doctor did a brilliant job on the pitch. Then on the way to the hospital my brother was with me.”
In the following days, Gomes suffered a form of post-traumatic stress. “I had some flashbacks of things, even like slipping,” he says.
“It was crazy because when that happened to me I was having reactions with my foot – the injured one was moving.
“I was talking to the doctor and physios and they said it was normal because your memory takes a picture of what happened – the trauma – so if you are thinking about that probably you will have a reaction from your body.
“This was maybe the first week and then I couldn’t stay laying down all the time. I asked the doctor: ‘Can I just stand up, just move, go to the toilet, or can I crawl and go everywhere? ’ And he said: ‘Well, if you can you can go, but take it easy.’
“Once I started moving it was like a distraction so from that period I never thought about what happened.”
Fake photographs of his dislocated foot circulated on social media did not help. “It was weird,” said Gomes.
“I know they were untrue because there were pictures of a left foot and my injuries were to my right. That is why I tried not to see them. And I will tell you one thing – I never tried to see the video!”
Before the support and goodwill came the apology from Son Heung-min, whose tackle led to the incident.
“Son is a very nice guy. I explained to him that things like this happen, and obviously it wasn’t on purpose,” says Gomes.
Ex-team mates Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were among the multitude of well-wishers. A message from Alan Shearer was particularly affecting.
“He was telling me: ‘Listen, you know what I had a similar injury at Goodison.’ Everybody was so good to me. I don’t like to compromise and say one or two.”
Speaking to those who recovered from a similar injury like Danny Wellbeck and Djibril Cisse, also restored his spirit, but Gomes initially banished thoughts of a comeback.
“I wanted two weeks for myself – to avoid any questions. I didn’t want to know what the future would be,” he said.
“When the plaster came off and stitches came out and I saw my ankle and my foot, that was the time I started to ask: ‘When will I be fit?’ So we took our time. Just go day by day and see how we feel. Do my work, go to the gym, do extra work. I set the goal to be back as soon as possible.
“I had two days off. December 25 and 31. I would wake up at seven, start work at eight, then maybe three hours, plus another three hours in the gym. Then maybe two extra hours in the pool. Then rest, eat something, do mobility, rest some more, maybe an hour on the bike. Then dinner and go to sleep.
“I did that for maybe two months. I’m not going to lie. I had really bad moments.
“I can’t say I didn’t have pain or that I didn’t have my foot blocked like a rock. I had days like that. But I wanted to get back and be with the team so I was going to push as much as I could. In January I saw light at the end of the tunnel.”
Gomes spent time working with Everton’s community team during his rehabilitation – he personally drove to Hereford to offer support to a fan suffering from cancer – before finally returning to training at the start of the year.
His reintegration brought with it another issue. “I was seeing that they were not putting their foot in,” says Gomes of his team-mates.
“Straightaway, I told two or three of them to go 100 per cent otherwise I can’t get ready for the game. Don’t go easy.”
After 30 minutes at Arsenal, Gomes returns to Goodison to face Manchester United this Sunday. He feels recovered, rejuvenated and even more appreciative of his career.
“I love playing football but when I was away sometimes I couldn’t watch an entire game,” he reflects.
“Sometimes when we lose something, we miss it more.”