The prospect of West Ham United striker Diafra Sakho playing again this season appears bleak following a latest update from club head of medical and sports science Stijn Vandenbroucke. The injury-plagued Senegalese striker has been limited to just two first-team appearances in 2016-17 and missed the opening three months of the campaign due to a back injury that scuppered a £15m ($18.7m) summer transfer to West Bromwich Albion.
Sakho returned to fitness in mid-November, starting against Tottenham Hotspur and scoring after just two minutes in a 1-1 Premier League draw with Manchester United. However, such a comeback proved to be disappointingly short-lived as he limped off in the 66th minute of that meeting at Old Trafford before being ruled out for six more weeks due to a thigh problem.
Things only got worse from there, with Sakho sidelined for this year's Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Gabon after undergoing back surgery in December. His latest recovery was expected to take approximately eight weeks, although almost four months passed before the 27-year-old returned to training with West Ham's U23 side on Monday (20 March).
It was hoped that Sakho, providing he suffered no further setbacks, could rejoin the first-team squad and be ready to play by the middle of next month. A trip to rock-bottom Sunderland on 15 April was reported as one potential return date, although Vandenbroucke has stressed that it will take time to rebuild his fitness.
"Finally, we have Diafra Sakho, who returned to training with the Under-23s this week in controlled sessions, meaning that we tailor the sessions to manage his workload, gradually building him up," he told the club's official website. "He has worked hard this week and will join the first team soon.
"However, we must be mindful that Diafra is essentially at the start of his own personal pre-season training schedule. When players return from their off-season, they will go through four to five weeks of pre-season work to build up their strength and fitness and, after undergoing back surgery and three months of rehab, a player needs time to reach sufficient fitness levels before we can contemplate making him available for selection in the Premier League."
Vandenbroucke also confirmed that prolific winger Michail Antonio would miss three to four weeks with a hamstring injury suffered during last weekend's 3-2 home defeat by Leicester City that led to his withdrawal from Gareth Southgate's England squad for matches against Germany and Lithuania. Underfire captain Mark Noble will be fit for a post-international break clash with Hull City after receiving a dead leg against Bournemouth, although influential defender Winston Reid will be out for five weeks with a groin tear that is not thought to be as bad as first feared.
Angelo Ogbonna could be back with the first team within a month if he continues to recover well following knee surgery. Pedro Obiang, meanwhile, is not expected to feature again this term having been stretchered off in that costly defeat to Leicester and subsequently undergone a procedure on his ankle. Young midfielder Domingos Quina has now "entered the second phase of his rehab".