It's been a season of mould-breaking for Borja Sainz.

When he first arrived at Norwich City he bucked the trend of experienced, home-grown players to bolster David Wagner's first-team group, marking a short-lived return to the intelligent recruitment that defined a bygone era.

He followed Ashley Barnes, Jack Stacey and Shane Duffy into Carrow Road, with the fanfare over his capture no surprise. He represented the allure of the unknown, a mysterious excitement compared to the known quantities of the aforementioned trio.

He also represented goals, assists, skill, endeavour and youth; all qualities fans were baying for as they feared a cliché Championship transfer window. Their hopes were pinned on the Spaniard.

So it meant complete devastation when, eight days after his capture from Turkish side Giersunspor, Sainz was ruled out for months with a serious ankle injury.

At that point the sensational form of Jonathan Rowe had been predicted by few, and fans were left with Duffy's debut own goal to ruminate on in King's Lynn.

The wait for Sainz's return felt slightly less long during August, when City were powering toward the top of the table and occupying a role as shock entrants to the automatic promotion race, but in the dark days of autumn it couldn't come quick enough.

By the end of September he'd made his debut for the club and scored his first goal, dispatching beyond Marek Rodak to cap a fine cameo against Fulham in the Carabao Cup. At that point he seemed ripe for selection, but the saga dragged well into October and then November.

For weeks Wagner resisted the urge to start his number seven, drawing the increased ire of supporters already fed up with a dull style of play and dire results. 

It took until December 13's 3-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday for Sainz to finally earn his first start in yellow and green, and there was a collective 'told you so' feeling for the Carrow Road crowd when he bent into the far corner just seven minutes in.

It took nearly three months of fitness for David Wagner (right) to give Sainz his first startIt took nearly three months of fitness for David Wagner (right) to give Sainz his first start (Image: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd)

His petulant sending off in a Boxing Day defeat to West Brom put on a blot on things 13 days later, but from there he rose to key player status at Carrow Road. An overturned red card at Middlesbrough was another low point, but he finished the campaign with eight goals; that's exactly as many as Emi Buendia registered in his first English campaign.

Included in those were rasping strikes against Coventry, Liverpool and Rotherham, intelligent finishes against Huddersfield and Bristol City and a passionate love for finding the right-hand corners.

He also stood out as the Canaries' key player in a tense play-off semi-final first leg, benched in the second leg only for Wagner's seeming plan to take the tie to extra time.

Many have diagnosed Josh Sargent's return as the moment Norwich kicked back into gear, but given the timing of Sainz's belated integration and the body of work he put together, they may be underestimating his influence.

With key players set to leave NR1 this summer and the opportunity for new heroes to emerge, the 23-year-old has put himself right at the front of the queue. What he achieved in his first season was impressive, but fans are already turning their attention to what the future could hold.

Under a head coach in Johannes Hoff Thorup who's used dribbling wingers to his advantage previously and is all about attacking, Sainz could go from strength to strength in City's new era.

He arrived a rough diamond but has already been honed a great deal. If Thorup can develop him as he did so many others at Nordsjalland, he'll have a real star on his hands in Norwich.