When national hero Jeff Strasser signed for Luxembourg outfit CS Fola Esch during the summer it looked to be the final chapter of a long story. Almost two decades after departing his homeland he was returning for a curtain call, but a switch to Switzerland and Grasshopper-Club means the encore will have to wait.
The stage was set. After 19 years away, Luxembourg's most-capped player was coming home as his contract with FC Metz – the club Strasser had first joined aged 15 – was not renewed. It was a call to arms for Fola, who swooped to bring the 34-year-old to the Division Nationale and he arrived during the summer expecting to end his career there. There was one get-out clause: should a bigger club try to sign him Strasser could leave, so when Grasshopper-Club came calling his swan song was put on hold. The defender could not resist a return to a stadium with such fond memories.
It was at Grasshoppers' Letzigrund that Strasser cemented his national favourite status. It was there, a year ago, that he scored a free-kick to set Luxembourg on course for a famous 2-1 victory over Switzerland in FIFA World Cup qualifying. "I remember the stadium very fondly," recalled Strasser. "It is where we beat Switzerland, and I scored and got an assist for the second as well." The locals may not have been quite so enamoured by their new signing but he will soon build bridges if he can help inspire an upturn in fortunes for a side that have mustered just two wins in their opening eight games this term, even if his first two matches brought a solitary point.
Grasshoppers coach Ciriaco Sforza is certainly hopeful. Sforza was in desperate need of an experienced head to "set an example to the younger players on and off the pitch", and Strasser, his former team-mate at 1. FC Kaiserslautern, was perfect. After five years at Metz, the man capped 90 times by Luxembourg had seven seasons in Germany with Kaiserslautern and VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach before returning to France with RC Strasbourg and then Metz once more. Five months on and, via Fola, Strasser admits he "already feels at home at Zurich". His real homecoming will have to wait.