Anelka mystery deepens after scan

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The Independent Football

An in-depth scan has shown Nicolas Anelka is not suffering from a serious groin problem.

Manchester City's record £13m signing has missed the Blues' last three matches after complaining of pains in his groin and back before the Premiership draw at Arsenal on 4 January.

A series of tests has failed to reveal any reason why Anelka has been unable to play or train for the last fortnight and Kevin Keegan hoped the latest thorough examination would unearth the cause of the pain.

However, after receiving the results, the City manager was only able to confirm there was "no serious damage" to Anelka's groin, meaning the former Real Madrid player could theoretically return for Saturday's televised trip to West Bromwich.

Such a scenario seems unlikely, though, given that Anelka has not trained since refusing to take a fitness test before the Arsenal game and will not get the chance to do so until tomorrow at the earliest after Keegan gave his players a day off.

It means the 25-year-old is not likely to play again until the visit of Newcastle on 2 February, by which time the transfer window will have closed and Anelka's short-term future will be resolved.

Reports of a possible transfer to Fenerbahce continue, although City officials have again confirmed there has been no further contact from the Turkish side since their preliminary approach over a fortnight ago.

Keegan is more concerned with Saturday's trip to the Hawthorns, though, especially as Robbie Fowler and Antoine Sibierski are doubtful with knee and ankle injuries respectively. That has put even more emphasis on Keegan's search for a left-sided player to replace Ben Thatcher, who is set to complete his move to Fulham later this week.

Keegan is hopeful of signing a loan replacement for Thatcher within the next 24 hours, but revealed that Rangers' Michael Ball is not top of his shopping list. The City manager has been linked with a move for Ball after it became public knowledge that Thatcher was heading for Fulham after twice having his house burgled since his summer move north from Leicester.

With Trevor Sinclair and Sun Jihai out for the season through injury, Keegan has only one left-footed player in his entire squad - the defender Stephen Jordan.

But Keegan confirmed he would only contact the Rangers manager, Alex McLeish, about Ball if a move for his first-choice target fell through.

"I am hoping to know within the next 24 hours about the outcome of a potential loan deal I have earmarked - and it is not Michael Ball," Keegan said. "If for any reason that deal did not go through, Michael is certainly one of the ones we would look at. He is a left-back who can also play left centre-back and that is crucial as he can offer cover."

Despite agreeing a reported £500,000 fee with Fulham for Thatcher, Keegan does not believe he has the finances to seal a permanent deal for a potential recruit.