Few things are more frustrating to an athlete than a serious lower body injury. When you injure something like a knee or a hamstring, you immediately lose all the speed, power, and mobility that you work so hard to build as an athlete. It’s like a part of who you are has been forcibly taken from you.
Knee injuries do not get any worse than the one suffered by Yannick Bolasie last season. Injured on December 4, 2016, his estimated recovery date is at this point Christmas of 2017. Athletes have notoriously short careers, so to have an entire year taken from you can be devastating.
Bolasie, however, has remained upbeat and is in fact very excited going into this season. With all the new purchases arriving at Goodison Park, Bolasie praised the ambition of the club, saying in a Daily Mail article:
“I'm just as excited as the fans, you know that there's going to be a spending spree but you think there's a limit. What we've done has been incredible. We've brought in some great players and it's only going to help the club try and break into that top six.”
As things stand now, Bolasie will be arguably the top wide attacker on the team when he returns from injury, but with the team constantly linked with the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jonathan Viera, and even Theo Walcott, it’s very likely that his place will be under threat when he returns. Bolasie, however, is only encouraged by this:
I'm all for the competition. I've grown up competing, it's not going to change now. For me it doesn't matter who comes in. I'm looking forward to playing with even better players.
Assuming Bolasie comes back full strength, what he would offer Everton is exciting. He was completing 3.2 successful dribbles per 90 minutes last season for a 55% success rate, and he took over half his shots from outside the box, which is an element the Everton attack missed last season.
Additionally, Bolasie had a respectable defensive work rate as well, successfully completing 72% of his tackles at 1.6 per 90 and only being dribbled past 0.6 times per contest.
Once Everton successfully adds another wide piece, the return of Bolasie will be like a free depth signing just before the January window. It will improve team depth for what will hopefully be a long European run as well as a strong league campaign. Yannick Bolasie’s positive attitude and strength in diversity is a sign that Everton is not only signing good footballers, but high character people as well. Having that character in the locker room is a great asset to any team, whether his knee has healed yet or not.
Asked if his injury made him more determined or more hungry, Yannick replied:
'I don't need extra hunger, I've already got it from the way I've come up and where I've played. It's in there. That's just the way I am. It's the way I've been brought up by my mum and dad, learning from them. I'm looking forward to playing and showing people what I'm really about because I thought I was getting into my stride before I got injured. I feel like I've got to work on things that I couldn't before. I think it's going to benefit me.'
Finally, Bolasie make no question about where he’d like to see Everton go from here:
“You've got to aim for the Champions League. That's my aim as well, personally, to try and help the team get there.”
The Champions League, indeed. It’s a place Everton has not been since 2005/2006, but with the strength of squad depth, the opportunity in this year’s Europa League, the leadership of Wayne Rooney, and the character of players like Bolasie, why not? This is a team that has the chance to do something special, and we all cannot wait until Bolasie is healthy enough to play his part in it.