Aaron Ramsey, Ilkay Gundogan and 20 Injuries to Threaten European Teams' Seasons
On Tuesday, April 15, Sky Sports confirmed that Ilkay Gundogan had signed a new deal at Borussia Dortmund but will miss the rest of the season and the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Later that same evening, Aaron Ramsey made his long-awaited Premier League return against West Ham—coincidentally returning against the same team he hurt his groin against on Boxing Day earlier in the campaign.
These were two injuries which severely derailed Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund's seasons, but they're not the only ones. We've picked out 18-20 ailments that have threatened entire teams' seasons as we build up to the World Cup.
All statistics are from WhoScored.com. All selections are from the 2013-14 season only.
Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal
Aaron Ramsey came of age this season, blossoming into a near-world-class midfielder in the early stages of the campaign and scoring several great goals.
His broken leg hampered his progression and confidence, while Arsene Wenger playing him on the right-hand side hardly helped either.
His cushioned header for Lukas Podolski on Tuesday night reminded everyone of what they'd been missing with the Welshman out for for months. Had he not gone down, would it be a four-way title race?
Ilkay Gundogan, Borussia Dortmund
Ilkay Gundogan put in a magnificent performance in Borussia Dortmund's 4-2 DFL Supercup victory over Bayern Munich in July 2013. Unfortunately, it's the only full appearance he's made this season.
Shortly after, he was diagnosed with a spinal stenosis problem, as per FourFourTwo, that had resulted in compression and stress fractures. The original diagnosis was two weeks, but we're now into his eighth consecutive month without playing.
How different would Dortmund's season have been had he not gone down?
Radamel Falcao, Monaco
Monaco were on course for a title challenge with Radamel Falcao fit, but he tore his ACL in January and things have just gone downhill from there.
Claudio Ranieri is now expected to lose his job at the end of the season despite holding things together without him, and with no real depth in the southern province, he's done well to keep them comfortably second.
Still, the impact of losing a €60 million player has been devastating.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paris Saint-Germain
A fatigue-induced thigh injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic has, with hindsight, proven to be devastating for Paris Saint-Germain.
He sustained the ailment during les Parisiens' first-leg victory over Chelsea in the Champions League quarterfinals, and with a 3-1 lead in tow, many believed Edinson Cavani would pick up the slack of and finish it off.
But a 2-0 loss at Stamford Bridge and a recent loss to Lyon in Ligue 1 has people doubting Laurent Blanc's position as manager—just three weeks after he was offered a new deal by the club.
A remarkable turnaround, it must be said.
Christian Benteke, Aston Villa
Things were looking glum at Aston Villa even before Christian Benteke tore his Achilles tendon, but the truth is they're a bit of a one-man team.
Without him they've looked even worse, incapable of scoring a goal (bar set pieces) and his absence has truly compounded the relegation fears many fans are experiencing.
Earlier in the season he hurt his hip flexor and missed over a month; the fallout, in terms of results, was just awful.
Sergio Aguero, Manchester City
Sergio Aguero was on fire earlier this season, scoring 24 goals in 22 starts and bagging seven assists in the process.
Successive hamstring injuries have curtailed his impact on Manchester City's season, though, and he's been rushed back several times only to reinjure his leg.
Had he stayed fit and kept up his form, he'd be pushing the 40-goal mark; in his absence, Alvaro Negredo lost all semblance of form and Edin Dzeko underwhelmed.
If City miss the title, it's because of this.
Dejan Lovren, Southampton
Dejan Lovren was something of a gamble for Southampton this summer given his collapse at Lyon, but it paid off—big time—when he settled in and stitched the defensive line together.
There are few centre-backs in the Premier League who boast his anticipation and positional skills, and his impact at St. Mary's Stadium was so noticeable the team shot from avoiding relegation to early top-four challenge.
They couldn't sustain it with the big guns, but a chase for the Europa League looked on. Unfortunately, Lovren's ripped ankle ligaments curtailed any hopes of a #SaintsOnTour trend next year.
Camilo Zuniga, Napoli
As per Goal.com, Rafa Benitez and his medical team have no idea what's wrong with Camilo Zuniga's knee.
The problem has kept him out of action entirely since October 2013, forcing the Spaniard to run with alternate options at left-back until he could get to the January transfer window.
It forced a combination of Giandomenico Mesto and Pablo Armero to fill in, but neither were sufficient in Benitez's 4-2-3-1 system. Faouzi Ghoulam has plugged the hole, but the damage pre-Christmas is done.
Charlie Austin, Queens Park Rangers
Queens Park Rangers were flying in January on the back of Charlie Austin's goals, but a heavy landing during a 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers spelled time off for the former Burnley man.
He required shoulder surgery, as per BBC Sport, and missed the next 14 full games before finally returning to the starting XI against Nottingham Forest this weekend.
They were on course for automatic promotion—or at the very least a challenge—but now must settle for the playoffs and are struggling to build momentum.
Theo Walcott, Arsenal
Theo Walcott was carried off on a stretcher against Tottenham Hotspur in January, but his cheeky smile and mocking of the visiting fans gave the impression it wasn't too serious.
Yet the diagnosis showed a tear of the ACL, ruling him out for the rest of the season and the 2014 FIFA World Cup, with the winger now admitting he's "learning to walk again."
Not only did the loss of Walcott strip down Arsenal's attacking options, but his absence has made Mesut Ozil worse off too.
Stephan El Shaarawy, Milan
Stephan El Shaarawy has made just one Serie A start this season and stands something of a forgotten man despite being just 21 years of age.
He fractured a metatarsal and missed two months, per Goal.com, and was sent for surgery by his club in December. Since then he's been slowly working his way to full fitness, but hasn't made an appearance in 2014.
Meanwhile, the Rossoneri have been midtable all season, crying out for his help.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Schalke 04
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored two goals in two games to start Schalke's season, but went down with a knee injury very early on.
He didn't play for the rest of 2013 and only returned to the pitch in late January. Since then, he's scored an impressive 10 goals to fire Schalke back into Champions League contention.
Had he been fit for the entire season, the Royal Blues could have been looking at a clear second-placed finish in the Bundesliga.
Pierre Michel-Lasogga, Hamburg SV
It was confirmed today by Abendblatt.de (in German) that Pierre-Michel Lasogga will miss the rest of the season with a torn muscle in his thigh.
For Hamburg this is horrific news, as they're mired in a Bundesliga relegation scrap and need every possible point they can get.
Lasogga has 12 goals in 17 showings this season—only Hakan Calhanoglu comes close to that tally from his own team.
Neven Subotic, Borussia Dortmund
Neven Subotic suffered a cruciate injury in his knee during the first half of the season, forcing Jurgen Klopp into uncomfortable circumstances.
Mats Hummels has had intermittent ailments throughout the season and, combined with Subotic's long-term absence, that's seen Borussia Dortmund start Manuel Friedrich (34) nine times in Bundesliga and Champions League games.
It's just lucky they bought Sokratis in the summer to hold it all together.
Erik Lamela, Tottenham Hotspur
Erik Lamela hasn't been right since he joined Tottenham Hotspur, and he's missed the last three months or more with a pesky back injury.
We haven't seen any of the genius that convinced Andre Villas-Boas to sign him from Roma for circa €30 million, and his failing to replicate Gareth Bale's goal tally from long range put in a spanner in his manager's plan.
Spurs have had a season to forget and the fans can't wait for it to end. Had Lamela been fit and firing, they could have challenged for fourth or higher.
Junior Malanda, Wolfsburg
Junior Malanda has settled in superbly alongside Luiz Gustavo in Wolfsburg's midfield late in the season, so news, via Kicker.de (in German), that he'll miss the rest of the season is a big blow.
Die Wolfe are embroiled in a tight fight for fourth place in the Bundesliga, and Malanda has been key in helping his side keep pace with Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach.
Romelu Lukaku, Everton
Romelu Lukaku ducked out for a month earlier this year because of an ankle injury, and during that time Everton's top-four challenge faltered badly.
The Toffees lost key games against Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, with Steven Naismith leading the line as an uncomfortable No. 9 while Lacina Traore built up match fitness from the bench.
An impressive winning run late in the season could see the injury rendered irrelevant, but if they miss fourth, they'll look back to those two notable losses.
Jakub Blaszczykowski, Borussia Dortmund
Jakub Blaszczykowski's ACL tear earlier this year poked yet another hole in Borussia Dortmund's limited resource pool.
The Polish winger is a mainstay in Jurgen Klopp's side and his chemistry with countrymen Robert Lewandowski and Lukasz Piszczek made BVB an irresistible force on the right.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was recruited this summer to provide depth, but he's not a player who can start every game. "Kuba" was a dependable, hardworking outlet who's been sorely missed.
Marcelo, Real Madrid
Marcelo hasn't played since sustaining a hamstring tear, confirmed by Real Madrid's official website.
It puts the rest of his season in doubt given the flakiness of the muscles involved, and you don't want to rush a player back due to the risk of reaggravating the problem (see Sergio Aguero).
For Real Madrid this is an issue, but at least they have Fabio Coentrao to fall back on. For Brazil, though, an unfit Marcelo is a nightmare situation—especially given his chemistry with star man Neymar.
Giuseppe Rossi, Fiorentina
Giuseppe Rossi started the 2013-14 season with 14 goals in 18 Serie A starts, but the luckless Italian hitman succumbed to yet another knee injury in January.
He was in the form of his life and looked set to board the plane to the World Cup for Italy; now, he's being subjected to late fitness tests and will be fortunate to play any part in Fiorentina's remaining games.
He carried the load while Mario Gomez was out, but with both hurt, the Viola faltered noticeably.