Buendia's season of football heaven
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
In normal times, supporters would be worshipping the ground Emi Buendia walked on and using the words 'Football Heaven' to describe his contribution this season.
The Argentine playmaker has been nothing short of a joy to watch. He has the capability of transporting supporters back to that moment where they fell in love with the game.
Football is about making people feel something. Buendia provokes joy, whether you prefer watching direct or free-flowing football.
That was shown on the grandest stage of all last season - despite City's relegation he still posed impressive creative numbers that rivalled the very best in the world, let alone the division.
In some scouting circles, the view was that his goal count was too low. Some even felt shooting was a big weakness in the game that couldn't be overlooked. He wasn't seen as a safe bet by the recruitment teams of several clubs.
He has proven them so wrong.
Daniel Farke set a challenge to the attacking midfielder at the beginning of the season; he instructed him to show more greed in the final third. He coached him on the importance of breaking beyond the ball into the box, something that has become a regular occurrence this season.
- 1 Why a Premier League gamble makes no sense for Farke
- 2 Onel Hernandez reveals reason he got a Norwich City tattoo
- 3 'I have to say I had more than one tear in my eye' - choked Farke on City duo's exit
- 4 Former City coach departs Ipswich Town
- 5 PRESSER LIVE: Barnsley v City - No fresh injuries. Skipp and Pukki will be part of celebrations
- 6 Why Norwich City won't be a soft touch in the Premier League
- 7 'Perfection' - Dowell on getting back to the big time with Canaries
- 8 Norwich City transfer rumours: Cardiff man once again linked
- 9 When will Norwich City learn their Premier League fixtures?
- 10 Rosenborg set for talks with Tettey
The 24-year-old is now operating at a level closer to Champions League standard than Championship level. He is miles ahead of his competitors in the league.
But to pretend it has been plain sailing for Buendia would be ignoring an important chapter of the season.
The sun was shining on the south coast, but behind the scenes a storm was brewing.
City had stuttered out of the blocks and Buendia was serving a suspension and coming back from injury. In the background was a hurricane of speculation that saw Farke elect to omit the Argentine and team-mate Todd Cantwell from the matchday squad.
Buendia was on the receiving end of some blunt criticism from his head coach. Farke accused the pair of 'lacking focus', something both have subsequently admitted.
After that, it appeared there was no way for Buendia. It seemed that his last game in yellow and green had been played. But he re-adjusted his mindset and began to work his way back into Farke's thoughts.
He played 84 minutes of City's home defeat to Derby County in October, before registering three assists in the next five matches. It would prove to be the start of the playmaker finding top gear.
Buendia's opening goal of the campaign arrived against Bristol City and highlighted the importance of the 24-year-old breaking the lines. His touch, as ever, was sublime to bring down an inch-perfect crossfield pass from Ben Gibson before he finished with aplomb.
From there, Buendia has not looked back.
He sees pictures even professional photographers would fail to capture. The pass that sent Pukki racing through on goal against Brentford was outrageous. His volley against Barnsley a work of art.
Technically, Buendia will be remembered as one of the greatest to ever wear yellow and green. His touch is as good as anything City have had in years.
There is the point about his aggression and temperament. Two dismissals this year saw him labelled naive by his coach, but that determination isn't a trait you want to pound out of him, but just channel in a different way.
His willingness to press and work on the ball is impressive. He has matured during the course of this year. Becoming a father for the second time has aided that process, but so too has the influence of the likes of Gibson, Grant Hanley and Kenny McLean.
If Norwich can extract more of the type of aggression witnessed to rob Stoke of possession before laying it across to Pukki, then they are on to a winner.
Buendia is a perfectionist. He is emotive on the pitch. He does demand high standards of himself and his team-mates. But underpinning that is a desire to win.
Now he is back in the Premier League. There is a greater determination to help the Canaries stay there. Buendia arrives back in the top flight as a more polished operator, one that has the ability to help City prolong their stay at the top table of English football.
The consensus amongst fans is that if City can retain his services this summer, then they will find themselves better equipped to survive. He will depart for greater things one day, and when he does, City can be proud of the role they've played in his development.
Buendia will be equally grateful for the education, opportunity and freedom City have afforded him.
He's a joy to watch, maybe even football heaven.