Nigeria forward Henry Onyekuru is hopeful of being fit in time to be able to fight for a place in the Super Eagles’ 2018 World Cup squad.
The World Cup starts in June in Russia.
The 20-year-old injured his knee in December while playing for Anderlecht against his former club Eupen in the Belgian Pro League and he was told he would be out for several months.
Onyekuru has returned to his parent club Everton for treatment and he believes the “love” he has received from everybody at the Premier League club will help him “recover even more quickly”.
Onyekuru joined Everton from Eupen during the summer, before being loaned out to Anderlecht for the 2017/18 campaign.
He scored 22 goals for Eupen last season and has added nine goals in 19 Belgian top flight appearances for Anderlecht while also impressing in the Champions League against Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Celtic.
Onyekuru initially feared he was set for an extended lay-off, which would have ruled him out of the summer’s World Cup finals in Russia.
“It is amazing here,” Onyekuru told evertonfc.com. “The people are good people, always friendly and showing care. I feel love and with that love I will recover even more quickly.
“When I first got injured the whole picture was quite bad, but fortunately it was not as severe as we first feared… so, hopefully, I will be back and ready to play before the end of the season.
“The first aim is to get back and finish the season in Belgium. There will be a few weeks of the league season remaining, so it makes sense for me to end the season there and prepare for the World Cup.
“When I got knocked by the goalkeeper I felt so bad and was worried.
“But since I came here and started having my treatment I have been happy. I am smiling every day.”
Onyekuru is confident that his time at Anderlecht will prepare him for the demands of playing in England.
He added: “That is the big difference between Eupen and Anderlecht – when you play in a top club like Anderlecht you have to win.
“Of course, you do lose some games but if you do… you have to lose fighting. That will help me cope with expectations at Everton.
“My main objective in Anderlecht was to do more than I did last season and to get that Champions League experience.
“I am learning every day, so to play in that competition and against those teams was so valuable for me.
“My first aim was to sign for a Premier League club. That has been my dream since I was a little boy.
“I had a couple of offers but I said to myself, ‘it has to be the Premier League’. It is not just the game, it is the passion people in this country have for football.
“Everton is a club that wants to win and always fights. With the facilities, staff and coaches here, I think they can really help me develop even further.”