Sheffield Wednesday: It's make or break time for Fernando Forestieri
Fernando Forestieri could not have wished for a better start to his Sheffield Wednesday career.
In his maiden season at Hillsborough, the 29-year-old, who was a £3m capture from Watford in August 2015, was the Owls' leading goal-scorer with 15 goals, the club's Player of the Season and was named in the Championship Team of the Season.
He was considered as Wednesday's most exciting and talented player to have graced the Hillsborough turf since the likes of Paolo Di Canio and Benito Carbone were donning the famous blue and white stripes in the late 90s. His technical ability was seen as the catalyst to instigate Wednesday's Premier League dream.
But Forestieri's Owls career has lost its way over the last two seasons because of the amount of injury problems the former Udinese man has had to overcome. In 2017/18, the striker missed most of the campaign following knee surgery and last season was plagued by hamstring troubles.
It has been an enormously frustrating couple of years for both Forestieri and Wednesday, who have been unable to regularly call upon the flair and creativeness that he can offer.
The back-end of last season, though, showed signs that Forestieri, should he stay fit, can return to the performance levels he is truly capable of. His goal against Norwich City at Carrow Road on Good Friday was nothing short of spectacular and his performance was not too shabby, either. He was showing a willingness to get on the ball and make Wednesday tick. It was his best performance for some time.
It was like watching the Forestieri of old. The Forestieri that we had grown to love during the earlier stages of his time at Hillsborough.
Sign up to our Sheffield Wednesday newsletter
That is the level of performance that Forestieri should be targeting week-in, week-out. When his heart is in it, he is one of the best players at this level. He is simply a joy to watch.
But now Forestieri has got to prove that level of quality to Owls boss Steve Bruce on a consistent basis, especially with the fact that he is out of contract next summer.
And the thought of his Owls career possibly coming to an end in 12 months time ought to give Forestieri the motivation he needs. He is a very talented individual, one that Wednesday are very lucky to have in their armoury when he is fit and firing on all cylinders.
The next 12 months are going to be pivotal in shaping his career and the only person who can determine how it will shape up is Forestieri himself. He knows, Bruce knows and the supporters know just how good a player he can be.
Next season is make-or-break for the striker.