Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson hopes Ruben Loftus-Cheek can return from injury in time to reignite his World Cup hopes after revealing the midfielder may require surgery.
On-loan Chelsea player Loftus-Cheek was expected to be sidelined for a matter of weeks with an ankle problem but Hodgson admits the initial diagnosis was incorrect.
The 21-year-old, who has not featured since December 28, enjoyed an impressive start to his season-long stay with Palace, resulting in England manager Gareth Southgate handing him an international debut against Germany at Wembley in November, followed by a second cap in the subsequent meeting with Brazil.
His hopes of making the plane to Russia in the summer are currently in the balance, however, with Hodgson unsure when Loftus-Cheek will be available again.
“The injury is more severe than we originally thought, or perhaps hoped, it would be,” said Hodgson, confirming Loftus-Cheek may need an operation.
“I would be very disappointed, surgery or no surgery, if he’s not playing before the end of the season.
“We certainly want him to be and I would presume Chelsea would want him to be because they might like to have a player who’s going to be selected for England in their squad but there’s literally nothing we can do about it.
“The only way he can make himself available for Crystal Palace or England is to be fit and at the moment that isn’t the case.”
Loftus-Cheek is currently receiving treatment from doctors at Palace and his parent club.
Asked whether he could be a doubt for the World Cup, which kicks off on June 14, Hodgson replied: “I don’t know.
“I don’t want to go into that at the moment because we don’t know how long it would take after surgery to get him fit again.”
Hodgson also said he had no desire for Loftus-Cheek’s stay at Selhurst Park to be terminated, despite his injury absence.
Cutting short the deal would allow the Eagles to bring in a loan player from another Premier League club as they are allowed a maximum of two and are currently borrowing Loftus-Cheek and Manchester United defender Timothy Fosu-Mensah.
“I wouldn’t want to send him back particularly, I would like to believe that it’s still a long way to the end of the season,” added Hodgson, whose team travel to Arsenal on Saturday.
“It’s obviously a longer injury than we were hoping it would be but there might be some very, very important games again this season when he might be fully fit and ready to play.
“And I don’t see any particular advantage in sending him back.
“There are not many Loftus-Cheeks out there at the moment at Premier League clubs who are ready to come out on loan.”