The current Premier League season has proven one impossible to forget, a campaign which has seen records shatter and a global pandemic halt football as we know it.
Even before we were thrust into the midst of an unprecedented crisis, there was a selection of high-profile players watching on from the sidelines, a group of stars absent through injury for much of the campaign.
There can be nothing more frustrating than prolonged time on the treatment table, as this lot will be sure to testify.
Here are five Premier League players we’ve sadly not seen enough of this season:
Love him or hate him, there are few players in the Premier League spoken about more than Paul Pogba.
Whether its divisive opinion of his performances, off-field antics or his controversial agent, Pogba is rarely far from the headlines, but has been an absent part of Manchester United’s season thus far, making just eight appearances for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side in all competitions.
The France international has been sidelined by persistent ankle problems, and his absence has seen mid-season signing Bruno Fernandes emerge as the key figure in the club’s creative ranks. Pogba’s talent is undeniable and he seemingly has all the attributes to be the world’s best midfielder, though he has never delivered consistently since his world-record move to Old Trafford four years ago.
The club’s transitional phase has not helped, but Pogba was supposed to be the star to help return the side to former glories. He has struggled to live up to expectations so far but the thought of a Pogba-Fernandes midfield axis, supporting the likes of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial in attack, looks a hugely exciting prospect.
Now back to full-fitness, United fans will be keen to see a full compliment of stars ahead of the Premier League’s behind-closed-doors return.
Chelsea’s decision to play a post-season friendly in Boston last May proved hugely costly, a serious Achilles injury suffered to Ruben Loftus-Cheek ruling the midfielder out of the Europa League final and the entirety of the current season so far.
It was a piece of cruel luck for the England international who finally looked to be fulfilling his potential, scoring ten goals and providing a further five assists in all competitions before disaster struck last year.
The 24-year-old has since seen Frank Lampard arrive as manager and a host of academy graduates thrive in the first-team set-up at Stamford Bridge, the dynamism of Loftus-Cheek seemingly perfectly suited to the club’s style of play under their new boss.
Chelsea have an abundance of talent in central midfield but Loftus-Cheek’s skill-set makes him a unique proposition, a brilliantly talented and versatile player who combines a mix of athleticism and technical prowess.
Having recently returned to the substitute’s bench before the enforced break in the season, Loftus-Cheek could return ahead of Chelsea’s first behind-closed-doors fixtures later this month.
It may be a tired cliché, but he really will be like a new signing.
Another player yet to make a league appearance this season, Sane’s season was all but ended following an ACL injury suffered in Manchester City’s Community Shield victory over Liverpool in August.
The Germany international has proven one of the most exciting attacking talents in the Premier League in recent seasons, being named as the PFA Young Player of the Year and winning back-to-back league titles under the guidance of Pep Guardiola.
Somewhat of a rarity in the modern game in that he is a left-footer playing on his natural side, Sane is a throwback to wingers of a bygone era with his lightning acceleration, determination to beat players and wicked deliveries from the flanks.
Even in a squad packed with elite talent at the Etihad, City have struggled to replace the directness and quality Sane provides as the club’s title defence has faltered. His future, however, remains subject to much debate, Bayern Munich set to return with strong interest this summer for a player who will have just a year remaining on his contract.
David Brooks proved to be one of the finds of the season for Eddie Howe and Bournemouth last term, the diminutive Welsh international adapting seamlessly to life at the top level following his move from Sheffield United.
The midfielder suffered ankle ligament damage in a pre-season friendly with Brentford in July and has not figured in the current campaign, though returned to training in February following a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Brooks’ silky style and inventiveness has been sorely missed in a season of struggle for the Cherries, the 22-year-old having scored seven goals and provided five assists in the Premier League last season.
Currently sitting in the league’s drop zone ahead of the league’s restart later this month, Bournemouth will hope to be able to call on the services of a player whose performances last season saw him strongly linked with moves to the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham.
Will we ever see the real Naby Keita at Liverpool?
The Guinea midfielder’s career on Merseyside has been stop-start since his highly-anticipated move from RB Leipzig almost two years ago, a series of star showings largely mixed with spells on the sidelines as his body continually fails him.
Keita was expected to become a key figure in Jurgen Klopp’s midfield with his ability to drive forwards from the centre of the park, his box-to-box style and ability to thread passes offering a different dimension to an often workman-like Liverpool midfield.
Those hopes have been hindered by a continued battle with injuries, however, the 25-year-old starting just four league fixtures for the runaway leaders thus far. Keita’s persistent niggles have seen Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain overtake him in the pecking order to be Liverpool’s link-man to attack, and he must manage to put a regular run of games together to force his way back into Klopp’s plans.
The German is confident that a star remains in his £52.75m signing, who is a quiet but popular figure in the dressing room, though his body must hold up on a consistent basis to fulfil his obvious potential.