Santa Cruz to miss start of season

City manager Hughes will not rush £17m striker back into action after surgery
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The Independent Football

Manchester City manager Mark Hughes expects to be without Roque Santa Cruz until the end of August. Hughes spent £17m luring the Paraguayan from Blackburn, but was already aware his City debut would be put on hold due to knee surgery.

With Emmanuel Adebayor having since been recruited from Arsenal, Hughes has no need to push the 27-year-old back into action too soon. The City manager intends to let Santa Cruz recover at his own pace in the hope his side will gain long-term benefits.

"We knew Roque would have a period of rehabilitation when we signed him, but we have good options up front," Hughes said. "If we can, we want to give him the time he really needs, rather than getting him back early and having him at 70 per cent.

"Rather than bring him back too soon, I would rather give him the time that he needs. We are hoping by the end of the month he will be available."

Santa Cruz has not played since the beginning of March and missed Paraguay's friendly against South Korea yesterday. He has had a frustrating year with his transfer saga dragging on from the January window and leaving Ewood Park in the summer under a cloud.

With just two days to go before his new-look side visit Blackburn, it promises to be a busy time for Hughes. It is expected City will lodge another bid for Joleon Lescott, although Everton are giving no sign of being interested in doing a deal, even if the Eastlands outfit increase their most recent £18m offer.

The Everton manager David Moyes was unequivocal in his response to Lescott's official transfer request yesterday, and the Scot is showing no sign of softening his stance.

"I have said all along that I have no intention of selling my best players," Moyes said on Tuesday. "Joleon is simply not for sale."

It means Hughes will almost certainly have to utilise his present squad at Ewood Park, although, like Santa Cruz, neither Vincent Kompany nor Michael Johnson will be involved.

Kompany underwent a toe operation last month, while Johnson is still two weeks away from a return to action after suffering a minor setback in his recovery from an abdominal complaint that ruled him out for most of last season.

Meanwhile, Hull City have called a press conference for this afternoon when it is expected they will announce the signings of Stephen Hunt and Kamel Ghilas.

Reading confirmed earlier this week they had agreed an undisclosed fee for the transfer of Republic of Ireland winger Hunt. The 28-year-old is thought to have discussed terms with the Tigers before linking up with his international team-mates for tonight's friendly against Australia.

Celta Vigo striker Ghilas has also been heavily linked with a move to the KC Stadium in recent days. The 25-year-old Algeria international has also played previously for Cannes and Vitoria Guimaraes.

The pair will take Hull's number of summer signings to four following the captures of Seyi Olofinjana and Jozy Altidore last week.

Manager Phil Brown had previously endured a frustrating close season in the transfer market with moves for players including Michael Owen, Fraizer Campbell, Marc-Antoine Fortuné, Daryl Murphy and Habib Beye falling through.

Roque road: Santa Cruz injury woe

*The injury

Suffered from Tendinitis in March 2009. Underwent surgery on 15 April but is yet to recover. City will have to wait until the end of August to see action from the player who scored 29 goals in 64 games for Rovers.

*Last season

The striker last played in Blackburn's 0-0 draw with Everton on 4 March. He last scored against Manchester United on 21 February and only managed a total of six goals all season.