Just when youngster Henry Onyekuru looked to be reaching for the stars, an unfortunate knee injury has placed his future in doubt. A sizzling campaign for Anderlecht in the Jupiler League where he leads the club in scoring has ended, likely for the season.
Onyekuru was stretchered off last weekend as he faced his former club KAS Eupen, with the diagnosis later released that he had ruptured his medial cruciate ligament, and there is a possibility that the anterior ligament is also damaged.
While recovery from a Grade 3 MCL tear can take anywhere from four to eight weeks to heal, the additional physiotherapy to get him back in shape assuming that no further surgery or treatment is required can total up to six months.
Anderlecht coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck confirmed that to reporters this week -
"He could be out for as long as six months."
The forward recently made his first two caps for the Nigeria national team, and had a distinct possibility of making the Super Eagles squad for the 2018 World Cup to be held in Russia this summer. Competition for places is tough and with him missing an extended period of time manager Gernot Rohr will be hesitant to include him in the traveling party.
There are additional repercussions for Everton with this. A big reason why the forward was loaned out to Anderlecht was to give him more experience in a league he was already familiar with, along with Champions League participation, but the biggest reason was that he would likely be ineligible for a work permit to play in the Premier League.
Thanks to the convoluted points system it takes to show eligibility, it was always unlikely the Blues would bring him back in the January transfer window. However, with participation on the largest international stage of them all in the World Cup, he would have made more points that would have gotten him closer to a work permit, or at the very least the Toffees would have some solid ground to go to the Exceptions Panel.
Now with this news, and all of this is dependent on what his final diagnosis and recovery schedule are, there is a possibility that Everton might have to loan him back to Anderlecht again next season, or choose to send him out to a Championship team in England to start acclimatizing him.
Either way, here’s wishing Onyekuru all the best and the swiftest of recoveries.