SPARE a thought for Sharu Naraji. In a perfect world, the former Sheffield United winger could have been preparing to take part in the Steel City derby this weekend.
Instead, Naraji will be analysing legal papers as he seeks leave to appeal against a court judgement which refused to award him damages despite ruling an operation on his knee, performed by a leading US surgeon, had been negligent.
“The past few years have been a nightmare,” Naraji told The Star. “Football meant everything to me and now I can’t even watch it on television because it’s too upsetting.”
Naraji, now 27 and living with his wife and daughter in Greater Manchester, arrived at Bramall Lane in 2005 having progressed through the ranks with Tehran giants Esteghlal and enjoyed spells on loan at Real Zaragoza and Torino.
However, an injury sustained during training later that year set in motion the chain of events which he claimed dashed his dreams of Premier League glory and ended with a failed £10m claim against American specialist KD Shelbourne.
Naraji, whose style former United fitness coach Tony Daley likened to Arjen Robben and David Ginola in a court testimonial, was reportedly on the cusp of a senior international call-up when he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a training session on the eve of the 2005/06 campaign.
Having undergone surgery to repair the damage, his rehabilitation appeared to be progressing well until the ACL graft ruptured during a reserve team fixture in 2006.
Naraji was operated on by Mr Shelbourne later that year but he left United when his contract expired in 2007 and has not played since.
High Court Judge Mr Justice Popplewell ruled that although the work, carried-out at Mr Shelbourne’s clinic in Indianapolis, had been negligent, Naraji would probably never again have been able to compete at the highest level.
The judge rejected claims of negligent aftercare against Mr Shelbourne and exonerated Manchester based surgeon Sanjiv Jari, who looked after Naraji on his return to the UK, of any blame.
Mr Popplewell also said that his claim had been brought too late under Indiana law.
“I still look after myself by staying fit,” added Naraji. “But when a match comes on TV I have to turn it off because I get upset. Sheffield was a wonderful city and I made lots of friends but I haven’t been able to go back since because thinking about what might have been causes me too much distress.”