After over a year out through injury, Wolverhampton Wanderers attacking midfielder Meritan Shabani is set to return to training next month after a nightmare start to his Wolves tenure.
According to The Express, the West Midlands side are planning for the German to become a part of Bruno Lage’s plans in April after numerous setbacks.
The 22-year-old was signed in the summer of 2019 from German giants Bayern Munich having gone through the youth ranks in Bavaria, with the initial plan being that he would join the U23s group with a pathway to the first-team.
However, the midfielder’s rotten luck began when he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in September 2019 in an EFL Cup game against Reading, ruling him out for the entire season.
Once Shabani had returned to fitness and played half a season with the U23s last term, the German joined Dutch side VVV-Venlo on loan for the remainder of the campaign, where he suffered a recurrence of his previous knee injury.
With Nelson Semedo Lage’s only other unavailable player prior to Saturday’s 2-0 home defeat to Crystal Palace, it would take a serious wave of injuries for the midfielder to feature for the first-team before the end of the season. However, there is certainly an opportunity for the 22-year-old to still have a future at Molineux.
In terms of more offensive-minded midfielders, Wolves have just Joao Moutinho and youngster Luke Cundle in the first-team set up with the likes of Ruben Neves and Leander Dendoncker more defensive players.
Having made his first league start against Tottenham recently, Cundle is certainly one for the future. However, at 35 there are always questions surrounding Moutinho and how much longer he will be able to play and the current intensity and standard.
Therefore, it certainly appears as though there is a pathway to being involved in Bruno Lage’s first-team plans for Shabani, should he impress for the U23s.
Wanderers will also have attacking midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White returning from loan at Championship outfit Sheffield United in the summer.
The 22-year-old has seriously impressed at Bramall Lane, scoring seven goals and registering six assists in 23 Championship appearances. However, it is currently unclear what the near future will hold for the Englishman upon the expiration of his loan deal in South Yorkshire.
Gibbs-White will certainly be a player Shabani will have to contest against for a place in the first-team setup, however, the £270k-rated German can certainly prove to his manager that there will be no need for Wolves to dip into the market and spend money on a new midfielder with a suitable replacement already in the squad.
An April return to training will give the midfielder just under two months to work hard and impress for the U23s ahead of pre-season where he will have to make a serious impression after almost three years of injury hell.
One described as an “unbelievable kid” by James Collins, now feels like the time he could finally make an impact in what is still a pretty small squad at Molineux.
Should the 22-year-old catch the eye of the Portuguese manager, Wolves may be able to save millions by implementing Shabani into the first-team squad.