Arsenal's stricken Croatian striker Eduardo da Silva could be playing again by the end of the year, the club announced yesterday. The horrific injury that he sustained in a challenge with Birmingham City's Martin Taylor has been identified as a fractured left fibula and open dislocation of the ankle joint, which the club said was not career-threatening.
Eduardo, who was 25 yesterday, is expected to be discharged from hospital later this week. The furore over his tackle has meant footage of it has been removed from websites such as YouTube while anonymous death threats against Taylor have been posted on the internet. However, in a move to calm the mood around the incident, Arsenal yesterday released the most upbeat assessment yet on Eduardo's condition.
"The orthopaedic surgeon and Arsenal medical staff assessed the extent of the damage and possible timescale for a full recovery," an Arsenal statement said. "All being well, Eduardo will have his leg in plaster and be using crutches for the next six to eight weeks. After that time, partial weight-bearing exercises will be scheduled into a slow rehabilitation process.
"It is hoped that Eduardo will be running again in six months' time and making a full recovery after nine months. Eduardo will be released from hospital in a few days."
The club said that the operation on Eduardo's left leg, which was undertaken at the Selly Oak hospital in Birmingham, had been successful; he has subsequently been moved to a London hospital.
The incident has caused a huge stir in Croatia, where the naturalised Brazilian is a national hero. He will miss the Euro 2008 finals. At Birmingham City's Wast Hills training complex yesterday, security guards were forced to intervene when Croatian journalists ran into the road and tried to get into Taylor's car as he left. However, the Birmingham manager Alex McLeish said that the club were confident that the strong feelings around the incident would soon calm. Taylor has visited Eduardo in hospital and spoken to Arsène Wenger personally. The Arsenal manager retracted his initial call for Taylor to be "banned for life" for the tackle.
McLeish said: "There has been a furore over the incident which has probably gone too far and we would like to draw a line under it now and let Martin get on with his career and hope Eduardo gets back as soon as possible.
"I've heard about the death threats and you are going to ridiculous proportions if that is the case. You've just got to get on with it and dismiss those things. There are some crazy people in the world. I think Martin's wife was upset at the weekend, but he has come in and got on with his life again thanks to the support of everyone who knew it wasn't a challenge with malicious intent to injure a player. We've had to rally around Martin because he was mentally shattered by the whole experience. I would have been worried about him coming into training had we not received the support from football people the length and breadth of the country.
"But the fact he has had such magnificent support has helped Martin psychologically because I felt he could be damaged by this incident as well. We have shown as a club we are right behind the big fellow. We have rallied around him, got him back into training. It was important he did that as soon as possible."
McLeish drew parallels with the broken leg suffered by Henrik Larsson while playing for Celtic in 1999 as an example of how a player can make a successful return from an appaling injury. "Henrik Larsson received a bad one a few years ago in Lyons while playing for Celtic," McLeish said, "and when I saw Eduardo I could think it was something similar. The technology and medical treatments nowadays meant Henrik Larsson's was a success and he came back to show he was a world-class player. Eduardo's a world-class player and he's definitely in the right hands and I'm sure he will come back."
David Busst, whose career was ended by injury after he suffered a similar injury while playing for Coventry in 1996, also believes the Croat will make a return to action.
"If there's no complications, I'm sure he will be back again," Busst said. "It wasn't the break that stopped me playing again, but the infections I caught after that."
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