Manchester United’s reported interest in Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman has been something of a never-ending story, with it appearing like more a matter of when the Dutchman would wind up at Old Trafford rather than if.
However, the Netherlands international has suffered with crippling injuries over the last 12 months, with his career stagnating massively as a result.
Former Roma doctor Mario Brozzi told the Italian media yesterday that he fears that the cruciate ligament injuries that the former PSV Eindhoven star has picked up could well end Strootman’s career, with his latest operation unsuccessful.
The 25-year-old’s woes started last March when he tore a cruciate ligament and as such required surgery, ending his chance to star for Holland at the World Cup.
As with any serious injury, the rehabilitation process will have felt never-ending for the midfielder but he has recently recovered enough fitness and confidence in his health to reintegrate himself with the Roma first team.
However, after only six Serie A appearances this term, Strootman suffered a relapse of the injury back in January and as such needed to go through the same soul-destroying surgery and recuperation as have blighted him over the last year.
The fact that the Dutchman has been sidelined robs the football purists of a player that has all the attributes to be one of Europe’s best and a star for club and country.
Before picking up the initial injury against Napoli last year, Strootman had transitioned from Dutch football to Serie A seamlessly and was a driving force behind the capital city side’s rejuvenation under Rudi Garcia.
With Louis van Gaal’s appointment in Manchester, transfer rumblings linking Strootman with a move to link-up with his compatriot only heightened, while United lacked a player of his ilk to command the centre of the pitch – there is an argument there to suggest they still do.
Strootman’s case is similar to someone like Giuseppe Rossi; an international star who has shown on his day that he can cut it at an elite level but who has been severely hampered by longstanding injuries and as such is unable to meet his potential.
A more illustrious striker than Rossi also suffered serious injuries and also has a link to Manchester United.
Strootman will be feeling mightily low at the moment with his career seemingly in the balance, but if he is looking for inspiration he needs only to recollect the story of Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Both players starred for PSV in the Eredivisie and captured the attention of some of Europe’s biggest clubs.
Unlike in the Strootman case where United allowed the midfielder to move elsewhere, the Old Trafford outfit acted quickly to sign hotshot Van Nistelrooy – only for injury to strike at the worst-possible moment.
The retired striker ruptured a cruciate ligament that saw the English powerhouses cancel a deal to bring him to Manchester, with Van Nistelrooy spending a year on the sidelines as Strootman has just done.
However, the Dutch centre forward worked his way back to fitness and earned his dream move to United, overcoming his injury concerns in the process.
Over five years Van Nistelrooy proved himself as arguably United’s most distinguished striker of a generation, netting 95 domestic goals in 150 outings and winning the Premier League before departing for Real Madrid.
Strootman’s case is more complex given Brozzi’s diagnosis and the fact that he has to start from scratch once more.
However, the supremely gifted midfielder has shown over time that he has all the attributes to be a world-beater and should not be written off just yet in his attempts to reach the game’s pinnacle.