Roque Santa Cruz’s return to full fitness from a knee injury will not be hurried along.
Surgery towards the end of last season has and subsequent rehab work has prevented the striker from featuring during any of City’s pre-season games, but strength in depth in his forward line means Mark Hughes is not seeking to get the Paraguayan back before he is ready.
Hughes said, “We knew he would have a period of rehabilitation when we signed him, but we have good options up front. If we can, we want to give Roque the time he really needs, rather than getting him back early and having him at 70%. We want him back at 90-95% OK – it’s almost impossible to be 100% fit as a footballer. That just does not happen.
“For the sake of a couple more weeks of rehab and intense work, we think he will benefit long term, rather than bring him back too soon. I’d rather give him the time that he needs. We’re hoping by the end of the month he’ll be available.”
Another player not to have featured in pre-season is Vincent Kompany, a toe injury that troubled the Belgian towards the end of last season finally required surgery last month, and the prognosis is positive.
“Vincent’s doing really well, he has had the operation to have his toe realigned. A bit of bone has been shaved off, he has a lot more movement in it but we have had to keep him from doing too much too soon. He’s working really hard in the gym, and when he does come back he’ll be fitter than he was at the end of the season.
“I like to have those players that have the ability to be flexible, it can help make tactical changes without having to change personnel.”
Michael Johnson is also on the sidelines, a promising 45 minutes against Orlando Pirates had raised hopes that the midfielder was ready to return from a niggling abdominal complaint that ruined his 2008/09 season.
“Michael got a strain in the training session on the pitch before the final game in South Africa,” the Manager revealed, “and that has held him up. He probably has another two or three weeks to go in terms of getting himself up to match fitness after that, but we’re hopeful that by the end of the month or in early September he’ll be an option.”