City’s self-proclaimed “invisible man” has finally been spotted again.
His tweet late on Friday night spoke volumes: “Back from the dead finally... been the worst four months of my life!”
Raffaele De Vita’s appearance for the last 13 minutes at Rotherham was his first since before Christmas.
The Italian winger would understand if fans had forgotten what he’d looked like after a long stint stuck in the treatment room.
City’s previous visit to the New York Stadium in the FA Cup was the last of the six games he has started. He had not kicked a ball competitively at all since coming off the bench at home to Leyton Orient in mid-December.
The memory of him taunting a packed Wolves away end after scoring at Valley Parade seems a lifetime ago.
It has been a period of huge frustration for De Vita, whose nagging thigh injury never seemed to go away.
What looked an innocuous strain during shooting practice in training three days after that draw with Orient developed into a prolonged problem that effectively wiped out half of his season.
De Vita also fears it could well have cost him the chance of a place on Phil Parkinson’s retained list.
The club have an option to extend the one-year deal he signed after being released by Swindon. But the player himself admits he has hardly presented the most powerful case to be kept.
“My future is up in the air but I have to be realistic,” he said. “If you look at it from the outside, I haven’t played enough games to be in a position to ask for a new contract.
“It doesn’t look like (I will get a new deal) but we’ll have to wait and see.
“At the same time, I know I’m not the player you’ve seen so far. Because of the injury, I’ve not had the chance to show what I can do.
“Going from two seasons when I’ve played over 90 games, playing almost every three days, to not seeing the pitch for almost four months has been really upsetting. I’ve become the invisible man.”
What made it worse is that nobody anticipated De Vita would be missing for so long. For a player who has never suffered a similar length of absence before, the frustration has been overwhelming.
“When you have an injury like Reidy (Kyel Reid), you know you’re going to be out for a long time. Mentally you can prepare for it.But with one like mine, which was a strain at first, it initially gets treated like a three-week problem.
“They didn’t tell me I was going to be out for four months because nobody expected that.
“I was going in every day (for treatment) thinking that hopefully this would be the last time but it just got worse and worse.
“People were always asking me ‘when are you back’ and I’d say ‘hopefully next week’. It’s hard to believe it’s been four months – it’s the longest I’ve ever been out by far.”
De Vita had been included on the bench a couple of times but the pain was still there. Since rejoining training a fortnight ago, it’s only now that he is feeling comfortable again.
“I knew when it happened that it was something you couldn’t just run off in training. But I didn’t expect it to be more than a few weeks.
“But I realised it was too early when I went back in. From a strain it became a more difficult injury to treat because it involved different muscles. I even went down to London for a botox injection which obviously has made it better.
“It’s been hard to deal with because I haven’t got a lot to take my mind off it.
“I’m just here for the football so all you’re thinking about is when you’ll get back on the pitch. It makes it very difficult.
“But now I’m just starting to get to 100 per cent and hopefully I won’t have to go back in the treatment room again. Unfortunately the season is basically nearly over.”
City’s four remaining games do include a trip to De Vita’s former club Swindon on Monday. A nostalgic run-out at the County Ground obviously appeals and he would jump at any involvement.
He said: “There’s not a lot left but I just want to get back on the pitch as much as possible. A few minutes out there is a massive bonus.
“Apart from the injury, I’ve enjoyed being at this place. I can’t complain about anything, the staff have been brilliant, they are a nice group of players to be around and I’ve been treated fairly by everyone.
“But right now, I need to finish strongly and go into the summer fully fit because I don’t know where I will be at the beginning of next season.”