Let’s look at 8 players who after having a difficult time with injuries, have bounced back this season. Injuries are that part of football that everyone does not want to see. When an player’s fitness and health are so important, the last thing you want to see is someone suffering an injury that will delay their potential in a career that could end in their thirties. Nothing is better to see than a player overcome massive injuries to finally reach that potential we all knew they had.
Canales is actually the inspiration for this list. The Spaniard was always seen as a promising player, with his performances all the way back in the 2009/10 season. He scored 6 and assisted 4 in 19 games. For a teenager it was very impressive. It earned him a move to Real Madrid, which saw him only play 293 minutes. Due to such limited minutes, he then went on loan to Valencia. While his minutes did increase to start, this is where the serious injuries back. He already suffered 2 minor injures in Madrid, both being ankle injuries, but nothing to worry about. He suffered a cruciate ligament rupture in October 2011, which resulted in him missing 37 games for Valencia. Things got even worse for Canales, with the midfielder then suffering the same injury a month after coming back, which resulted in him missing 189 days of football. Valencia actually signed the then 21 year old for a reported €8 million and on a 5 year deal. It was proof that they still believed in him. He only started 7 games the following season, which is understandable. He only returned from that second rupture at the start of November, and it takes time to get back to 100% when you suffer an injury that keeps you out for that long. In those brief appearances, he did manage 2 goals and 2 assists. His highlight at Valencia was arguably his performances in the Europa League in the 2012/13 season. Canales scored 2 in 5 starts, and was taking 3.6 shots a gamem the highest of his career. Canales was finally getting the minutes he deserved.
In January 2013, he moved to Real Sociedad, and continued to get the minutes, starting 13 games in the second half of that season. His 2014/15 was notable. It was the first time he started over 30 games domestically, and it was a sign that all those horrible injuries were behind him. Unfortunetly, that same ligament injury came back. In a 3-1 defeat to Madrid in late 2015, he tore ligaments in his left knee. What was most worrying about this was which knee was torn. The other injuries were all in his right knee, which made this injury even more worrying. He missed 266 days of football. While the following season was mostly a recovery process, of trying to get back into the groove of things, he did have a very good 2017/18 season. Like his time in Valencia, his highlight was the Europa League. He got 6 assists in as many starts, and was creating 4 chances a game. He had a very good season overall, but after difficult negotiations with the club over a new contract, he parted ways with Sociedad.
Canales then joined Betis on a free transfer. To say he is in the form of his career is an understatment. The Spaniard has started 21 games, scoring 6 and assisting 2. His numbers are all at the highest they’ve been in La Liga. He’s been taking 2.2 shots, creating 1.8 chances and completing 1.7 dribbles. Canales was always seen as a very Spanish advanced midfielder, so technically gifting and showed great ability at a young age. He was one of Spain’s brightest prospects and is now finally showing why.
Marco Reus is another who was highly promising at a young age. he started life at Borussia Monchengladbach, where he shined under current Borussia Dortmund manager Lucien Favre. He was just improving every year, and went from scoring 8 in 27 in the 2009/10 season, to scoring 18 and assisting a further 9 only 2 seasons later. He was arguably Germany’s most talented player at the time, and it seemed he would be a potential player of the year. After that stellar season for Monchengladbach, he signed for then champions Dortmund, where he had a great debut campaign, but it was his follow up season where it seemed he could possibly win the Balon d’Or. In the 2013/14 season, scored 16 and assisted 13 in only 30 appearances. He was seen as one of the best players in Europe, and the only way was up.
So when did the injuries start? Well after his supernova season, he started to pick up consistent injuries. He missed 19 games in the 2014/15 season, a season in which Dortmund massively struggled and missing their key player was the last thing they needed. While he did miss 10 games the following season, it ended on a massively sour note. Reus suffered Osteitis Pubis. It forced him to miss Euro 2016, a tournament which would have needed the flair and speed of Reus on that left side for Germany. After making his recovery the following season, it again ended on a huge negative. In the DFB Pokal final against Frankfurt, he suffered a ligament tear in his knee. It ended a campaign that was full of difficulties, and it forced him to miss 220 days. It didn’t see him return until January 2018. He ended the season very well, scoring 7 in 11 starts, and helping Dortmund qualify for the Champions League. He also finally played in the World Cup, even if Germany were really bad.
We now reach this season, where Reus is finally at his best. After perfoming mostly through the middle in the previous season, Favre decided to play him as more of a second striker, to make sure he gets more involved in play and allows the young wide talent they have to play and flourish. Reus has had his best season since that supernova 2013/14 season. With a side so young across all positions, having a player who has been at the club longer than most is so valuable. Reus has went from that young player to helping ones like Larssen, Sancho, Diallo and Hakimi. With Dortmund having a weird striker problem, Reus has been the goalscoring vocal point for the side. He’s scored 13 in 19, and is looking very good, considering the team he’s playing in. Favre famously just allows his attackers to express themselves. It’s different to how Tuchel and Klopp set up, which were to get the most out of the attackers, and to dominate games from the front. It means Reus is more efficient, but statistically, isn’t having his best season. His dribbling is very low, but since he’s more central, he doesn’t have to be beating men as often as he did as a winger. His shot numbers are still good, and is his chance creation. It’s what happens when you age. You shouldn’t be trying to push yourself as much. Players at Reus’s age are starting to fade, so need to play in a way which still allows them to flourish. While he never reached the potential we all knew he could, he has still became a top player, and needs to be credited massively for being able to come back and perform after such a difficult time.
Onto another Borussia Dortmund player. Like Reus, Gundogan showed a lot of promise at a young age. He shined at Nuernberg, playing as a central midfielder is excelled in the final third of the pitch, being able to create and score. He scored 5 in 24 for his side, and helped Nuernberg finish 6th in the Bundesliga that season. He then signed for title winners Borussia Dortmund, clearly as a replacement for Nuri Sahin, who departed for Real Madrid. He was so good in their success of keeping hold of the title, that it was as if Sahin never left, but just got a lot faster. He was putting in 5.1 tackles and interceptions that season, and was even creating 1.5 chances a game. It showed he was a very well rounded midfielder, and it highlighted him as one of Europe’s future superstars.
So when did the injuries start? Well 2 seasons later, on the opening day of the 2013/14 season, Gundogan unfortunately suffered an awful back injury. It meant he was forced to miss more than a year of football, and like Reus, forced him to miss the 2014 World Cup, and watch his country win from the sidelines. When he signed for Manchester City in 2016, he told Sky Sports, “I was really scared, and I didn’t know if I was ever able to play football again.” Out of all the players on this list, his injury might be one of the worst I’ve ever seen. Spinal injuries are much harder to perform surgery on, because of how vital they are in how your body moves and functions. It’s an experience I wouldn’t want any player to go through. After Dortmund deciding to offload the midfielder, he was sold to Manchester City. After starting 15 games in his debut season, including 6 starts in the Champions League, another injury faced Gundogan. In late 2016, Gundogan was forced off with a ligament tear in his knee, forcing him to miss the rest of the season.
After all these set backs, Gundogan is not the same player as he used to be, but that has not stopped him from contributing to one of the best sides in Europe. With Fernandinho and David Silva all aging, and Manchester City going far in so many competitions, it has given Gundogan a very important spuad role to fill. He is able to fill in every midfield position, and has scored 5 goals in 14 starts in the league, and has become a very important player to Pep. Let’s hope he doesn’t face another long term injury in his career.
While the other 3 players might be as discussed as they should be, a majority of football fans are aware of what happened to Luke Shaw. When he broke onto the scene under Mauricio Pochettino at Southampton, he was seen as the future England left back, since Ashley Cole was finally aging out, it was time to be finally replaced. Young Shaw was actually in the team of the season in that 2013/14 season. he started 35 games that season, the most of his career. He was only 17 at this point, which shows why he was seen as the future. He was averaging 1.6 dribbles per 90, the only time he has averaged over a dribble in his career. He was also creating a chance a game and was also putting in 3.2 tackles and interceptions per 90, the highest in his career domestically. These weren’t just good numbers for a young player, but a player of any age. It’s what lead Manchester United to break the record for money spent on a teenager, and was hopefully going to be a mainstay in that United defence for more than 10 years. However his first season under Louis Van Gaal wasn’t great. As the likes of Depay, Varela, Januzaj and Blackett will all know, Van Gaal has a very dated approach to dealing with young players. There’s an element of if you don’t perform, you’re out. It’s an attitude that saw all players leave during or right after Van Gaal’s tenure. Luke Shaw struggled just like the others, but things were looking good for the young defender in his second season, which saw him start the first 9 games of the season, and look like he had rediscovered his form that earned him a move to Old Trafford.
Then that game against PSV Eindhoven took place. With only 15 minutes on the clock, Luke Shaw makes a bursting run into the box, and was taken out by Hector Moreno. The tackle was not a pretty one, and it resulted in the young England full back suffering a leg break. When Shaw is asked about this injury, he mentions how he nearly lost his leg if he didn’t have surgery. Just when you watch this injury back, you can just see how seriously hurt Shaw was by that tackle. It’s by far one of the worst injuries that I’ve ever seen and it was going to take a miracle for him to recover.
Shaw returned from injury by the beginning of next season, and he faced his biggest challenge on the pitch, being Jose Mourinho. The three time Champions League winner seemed to not like him in the slighest. It lead to Shaw only starting 9 games that season, during a time when Manchester United didn’t have any other real left back option. After Shaw came off the bench to help United salvage a point at home against Everton, Mourinho came out after the match saying “Shaw used his body with my brain” and was one of many moments where Mourinho seemed to show his dislike to the former Southampton player. Their relationship didn’t improve, with Shaw only starting 8 games the following season, and many United fans were starting to lose patience. He didn’t seem to want to get into the team and fight for his place, and a lifestyle that showed a player who wasn’t in the rush to get in better shape. He was one of many players United fans wanted to see leave the club last summer.
These opinions all changed after that first game of the season against Leicester. Shaw scored and put in a solid performance to boast. He was one of very few United players to not down tools when the results were getting bad. This even continued under Solsjkaer, who has kept him in the side. Shaw has started 23 games this season, more than he’s managed in the last 2 campaigns. I don’t think he has been excellent, but he’s at least playing. He’s looked great defensively, but just needs to contribute more going forward. He’s only completing 0.8 dribbles per 90, but has proved at Southampton that he can do much better. United finally have a left back with dynamism and future, something they’ve lacked since a young Patrice Evra. He will stay at the club for a long time if he keeps up this new positive attitude.
Santi Cazorla has got to be one of the most technically gifted players the Premier League has ever seen. He was one reason why Arsenal’s chance creation was so good during Wenger’s latter years at the club, and ability to find space and pick out the right pass made him their best player that season. I hold the firm belief that if Arsenal did not sell Robin Van Persie that summer, they would have won the league in the 2012/13 season. City, Liverpool and Chelsea all underperformed, and Man United lacking Van Persie wouldn’t have touched that trophy. A lot of Arsenal’s players truly stept up that season, with Podolski, Walcott, Gibbs and Arteta all having their best seasons for the Gunners. Cazorla however was arguably the best player in the league that season. After losing Nasri, Arsenal needed a new creator, someone to help all of these talents score the goals to replace those lost by the departure of Van Persie, and Cazorla fitted that bill. Not only did he replace Nasri, but he made the entire side even better, and must go down as one of the best bits of business Arsenal have ever made in the Premier League era. If Bale didn’t go supernova that season, Cazorla would have won the player of the season. The Spaniard scored 12 and assisted 11, taking 3 shots a game, creating the most chances and completed 2.3 dribbles. He even put in 3.7 tackles and interceptions, putting in the perfect midfield performance. He played every game that season, proving just how vital he was for the Gunners.
This importance did slowly decline once Mesut Ozil arrived, who instantly became their best creator, but that didn’t stop Cazorla contributing. He was moved into wide areas of the pitch, to accomodate their new record signing. However Cazorla still remained effective, scoring 4 and assisting 8 for his side. He was less productive, but since he wasn’t the main focus of the side anymore, that is understandable. He was then moved into a deeper position in the 2014/15 season. Arsenal were suffering from a lot of injuries in midfield, with Ramsey, Flamini, Wilshere and Arteta all missing out in the season. It forced Wenger to recall Coquelin and start Cazorla as a defensive midfielder, and Cazorla still performed great. He massively helped Arsenal in transition and helped get the ball up the pitch much faster. Coquelin gave the Spaniard plenty of protection and concerntrate more on attacking. He lead the team in assists and was key in their FA Cup win.
So when did the injuries start, well Cazorla always had the occasional knock, but nothing like the ankle injury he would receive. He already had ankle damage before. It began all the way back in 2013, where he received damage on his ankle. Even after that injury, he still had a lot of pain in his ankle, but it reached its limit in October 2016, where the worst 2 years any player has experienced. Cazorla missed 618 days due to injury, and it was through multiple problems in his ankle, the worse being a bacterial infection that was eating away at his ankle bone. The injury was so bad, that doctors in London had no idea if he would be able to play again. Those doctors are to blame for a horrible end to a footballer’s career. This infection was there all the way back in 2013, yet they had no idea. Surely a club the size of Arsenal would have a medical team that would at least be able to spot and treat a problem that has halted a great career.
He has since left Arsenal to join boyhood club Villarreal, where he been excellent. He’s started 18 games in La Loga, scoring 4 and assisting 5, so let’s hope he can end his career on a high.
The final Premier League player to be on this list. Danny Ings has had a potentially solid career delayed thanks to two awful knee injuries. Ings was a promising player during his time in Burnley. The forward was a big reason why they got promoted in the first place, he scored 21 goals in 40 games, which was the driving force for their promotion. He then had a pretty solid debut campaign, scoring 11 in 35 for a side who were destined to go down. his form earned him a move to Liverpool, who at the time just couldn’t make good business. With Ricky Lambert and Mario Balotelli leaving the club after not adding the goals Liverpool hoped, they decided to bring in Ings and Benteke. Both just weren’t good enough for the club. Underwhelming business like this was a reason why Rodgers was eventually sacked, and in came Jurgen Klopp. He seemed to not like Benteke in the slightest, who was eventually sold the following summer. Ings had a bigger problem however. After starting 3 games, he suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury, which resulted in the forward missing the rest of the season. What made things worse for Ings was he suffered another knee injury the following season, only 3 months after recovering from his last injury. It forced him out for another season. After having minimal impact in the 17/18 season, he decided to depart the club.
I thought a loan move at the time would make more sense, just to show other clubs that he can play consistently over a season. He was a massive gamble no matter where he was going, but Southampton were the ones who ready to take that risk, signing the English forward for £16 million. Ings has been a hit in South England, getting 8 in his first 14 games. He was a favourite for Mark Hughes and now with Hassenhuttl. He is taking 2.5 shots and creating a chance a game, good numbers from a player in desperation to finish a season. He has truly bounced back after years of injuries.
Arguably the most unknown on this list, Ondrej Duda is currently playing for Hertha Berlin, and is having the best season in his short career. The 24 year old signed for Hertha back in 2016, and had a very miserable 2 years in Germany. He arrived from Warsaw with Pantella problems and didn’t have an impact in the first season and struggled in his second season with confidence. Since he wasn’t playing, it made adjusting to life in a new country so much more difficult.
However this season he finally seemed to be reaching his potential. He’s scored 10 goals and assisted 2 in 21 starts. He’s won Hertha so many games this season. including a massive win over Schalke away from home. He scored 2 goals to beat last year’s runners up. While he is definitely riding hot (he is expected to be on roughly 4 goals), it is still nice to see a player contributing to his side after so much problems.
And finally we have to talk about Max Gradel. The winger has had quite a tough time in recent years. His injuries began back in 2013, where near the end of the season, he suffered a cruciate ligament injury that kept him out for 6 months. He did improve and scored 17 goals in just 31 appearances (23 starts) and earned himself a chance to shine in England, signing for Bournemouth in 2016. He had a real tough time, suffering from another ligament injury, which kept him out for another 6 months. When a club is trying to stay up, they need players like Gradel, someone who is able to add an element of unpredictability to a side. He is arguably their most exciting signing since their promotion, and it’s a massive shame he just didn’t work out.
He has been absolutely fabulous for Toulouse. He arrived back in France in 2017, and has given them a fighting chance in surviving relegation. He has scored 10 and assisted 4 in Ligue 1, and is completing 2.4 dribbles and taking 3.4 shots, numbers similar to before he moved to England. He has finally found his form and it’s good to see him contributing massively again.
While the last few might seem rushed, it’s because they haven’t had the same long history as Canales and Reus have had. This was originally going to be 10, but because of this taking way too much time, it had to be cut. Hope you enjoyed regardless.