Marouane Fellaini is struggling to be fit for the start of next season after being told he needs surgery on his damaged ankle ligaments.
Stunned Everton manager David Moyes revealed last night that his £15million record signing had suffered a similar injury to that of Arsenal striker Robin van Persie and would miss the rest of the current campaign and the build-up to next season.
A scan confirmed Everton's worst fears about the former Standard Liege midfielder, who had to be helped off after a clash with Liverpool centre back Sotirios Kyrgiakos in their derby defeat at Anfield earlier this month.
While Kyrgiakos was shown a straight red card for a two-footed lunge, Fellaini escaped punishment despite appearing to stamp on the defender's leg.
He was unable to continue, though, and now faces a lay-off until the end of August as he awaits an operation.
'It is a setback for Felli and for us, because he had been playing really well,' said Moyes. 'It is a similar problem to Van Persie's, and he has been booked in for an operation. We are looking at six months out, which is desperate news. The way his game has been developing this season, he was beginning to look one of the most complete midfielders in the Premier League.'
Van Persie suffered ankle ligament damage in a friendly for Holland against Italy last November and may not play again this season. He has had reconstructive surgery in Amsterdam and may have his comeback placed on hold until the start of pre-season training.
The build-up to a new campaign is seen as crucial for reaching peak form and fitness, but, worryingly for Moyes, Fellaini will miss Everton's entire programme.
The Belgian, signed 17 months ago, has become a fans' favourite with his afro hair, and his recent form has attracted interest from other Premier League clubs.
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