Traore blow, Lukaku returns for Everton
LIVERPOOL -- Lacina Traore may have played his last game for Everton as he faces the possibility of surgery to sort out his hamstring injury, manager Roberto Martinez said.
The Ivory Coast international forward moved to Goodison Park for the rest of the season on loan from Monaco on Jan. 24, but has played just once so far.
Having arrived on Merseyside with a separate hamstring problem, Traore recovered to score on his debut in a 3-1 FA Cup fifth-round victory over Swansea on Feb. 16.
But he suffered a new injury setback in the warm-up before the 1-0 Premier League defeat at Chelsea six days later.
Martinez said that Everton were in talks with Monaco to discuss the best course of treatment for the striker, with surgery being considered as an option.
But having suggested earlier this week that Traore would be out for weeks rather than months, Everton’s manager has acknowledged that the loan deal may have to be cut short.
Martinez suggested that the 23-year-old’s injury was similar to that suffered by on-loan Barcelona forward Gerard Deulofeu, who was out for two-and-a-half months after tearing his hamstring during a 4-1 league win over Fulham on Dec. 14.
Asked if Traore’s loan spell might be ended early, the manager said: "It would depend a little bit on the length of time that he needs to recover. We’re going to find out over the next couple of days about the treatment route that we’re going to go down.
"The relationship with Monaco is very, very good, and you get to a point where you want the best for the player.
"We need to make sure that he gets the right treatment. It depends on how long that’s going to be. If it’s only a matter of three or four weeks, clearly we want Lacina to be here until the end.
"If it’s going to be anything longer than two or three months, then clearly the loan period is over.
"It’s going to depend on how the conversations go today. The only thing we are focusing on now is ensuring that Lacina gets the right treatment to be able to perform in the manner that he did against Swansea.
"When he does that, he’s a footballer who can be very important.
"We need to remember the type of player that Lacina is. He’s a sprinter. His injury is very similar to the one we picked up with Gerard Deulofeu.
"You need to be very careful how you treat them so they don’t come back."
Traore’s injury means he will miss out on this Saturday’s home league game against West Ham, the club he nearly joined on loan in January before Everton nipped in to complete a deal.
But Martinez will be boosted in attack by the return of Romelu Lukaku, who has recovered fully from the ankle injury he sustained during the 4-0 defeat at Liverpool on Jan. 28.
Lukaku, on a season’s loan from Chelsea, was fit enough to play in Everton’s league game at Stamford Bridge last weekend, but was ineligible to face his parent club under Premier League rules.
Martinez said: "They are both fine. Romelu has been training really, really well in the last 10 days.
"Obviously, he wasn’t available for the Chelsea game but even then, he could have made that squad."
Everton’s manager has made clear that he would like to keep Lukaku beyond the summer, but insists that his main concern for now is ensuring that the 20-year-old -- who scored the winner when Everton claimed a 3-2 league victory at West Ham on Sept. 21 but is awaiting his first goal of 2014 -- finishes the season strongly.
"This has been the most demanding season of his career," Martinez said.
"When he arrived at Chelsea as a young man, he had to go out on loan and he became a very important player in the league, showing he could score goals.
"This season, on top of that, he’s been getting used to playing 90 minutes, to leading the line and to taking instructions. That’s demanding.
"From a physical point of view, his injury came at a good time. It’s given him a bit of a break and refreshed him, and he’s desperate now.
"When you see him in training, you see exactly the same desire that he had when he came here for his first week in training. That’s exciting.
"I can’t wait to see how Romelu performs over the next 10 weeks, and to see the best of all his good work.
"I feel, as a player, he’s going to the next level now."