Dutch midfielder Kevin Strootman has suffered a torrid 22 months of injury hell, but he is finally back in the frame for a starting spot at AS Roma.
The capital club are in the midst of a revival of their own, having won in their last six Serie A outings under returning coach Luciano Spalletti.
They posted one draw and a defeat in his opening two matches back at the helm, yet have swept all before them since domestically.
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One issue that has been evident throughout the season so far, though, has been the dearth of options open to Spalletti and his predecessor Rudi Garcia in central midfield.
That situation could change dramatically for the Giallorossi now, with 26-year-old Strootman back in contention following almost two years on the sidelines.
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When Roma signed Dutch international Strootman from PSV in July 2013, they beat off strong competition from Manchester United amongst many others.
He moved to the Italian capital in a deal worth around £13.3 million, which was seen as major coup at that stage.
His form during a first campaign spent in Serie A justified the outlay, as the physically imposing playmaker collected 25 league appearances, scoring five goals and assisting a further six along the way.
Able to feature as a marauding box-to-box midfielder, or in a deeper role in front of the back four, Strootman was seen as the natural heir to aging team-mate Daniele De Rossi.
However, disaster struck in March 2014 when he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his left knee, thus curtailing his involvement for the latter part of his opening season at the Stadio Olimpico, and also ruling him out of the World Cup.
Little did he realise at the time that it would lead to a near two-year battle in order to make it back into first-team action at the very highest level.
LACK OF COMPETITION
He eventually made his comeback by way of a 12-minute cameo during Roma’s 5-0 rout of Palermo on February 21, whilst receiving a warm welcome from the home fans in attendance.
Aside from De Rossi, there’s been a string of distinctly unimpressive displays from others who’ve played in that deep-lying central midfield slot in his absence this term, and Strootman will have his eyes fixed upon a regular place in that section of the side.
Seydou Keita has looked every bit his 36 years, while Frenchman William Vainqueur has managed only four Serie A starts, in which he has totally failed to convince.
Coach Spalletti has been crying out for a more plausible option in the middle of the park and may well have found the perfect answer in the shape of Strootman – should he remain fit.
Two knee operations have taken their toll and it’s likely that he’ll require the remainder of this campaign, plus pre-season, to find his feet again.
Given the need for rotation in that area of the field, especially in a bid to give De Rossi a breather, there’s no better time for Strootman’s return to the fold.
His tough-tackling and accurate passing is ideal for that central position and will offer his new boss a fine option with which to conjure.
There’s still a long way to go before we can say he is truly back to his best, but Strootman certainly possesses sufficient ability to shine in Serie A - and perhaps entice interest from the English Premier League once again.
Do you think Strootman will play in the Premier League one day? Have YOUR say in the comment box below!