Everton's Lukaku escapes serious lay-off
Lacina Traore says Everton’s more attractive style of play was the key factor in choosing the Toffees over West Ham.
• O'Farrell: Anfield nightmare
The Ivory Coast international’s admission comes after Jose Mourinho accused the Hammers of playing “19th-century football” to shut out his Chelsea side during a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Traore, 23, moved to Everton on loan from Monaco for the rest of the season last Friday -- but initially looked as if he was bound for Upton Park.
West Ham had secured a work permit for the striker, only for the Toffees to nip in and steal him from under their noses.
Asked how close he was to joining the Hammers, Traore said: “It was quite close, but Everton was my choice. I’ve made my choice, and I’m hoping to settle in.
“Why Everton? I looked at the styles of play of the two teams we’re talking about here, and I just felt that Everton are more of a passing side. What I liked was the style of play, the technical, skilful style here at Everton. I also looked at where they were in the league, and they were quite well off for points.
“With that emphasis on skill and a passing game, I’m hoping I can settle in as quickly as possible with my style of play.”
Traore has joined an Everton side who are sixth in the Premier League ahead of Saturday’s home game against Aston Villa, while West Ham are in the relegation zone, despite their point at Chelsea.
The striker, who is recovering from a hamstring injury sustained last month, is 10 to 14 days away from being ready to make his debut, according to Everton manager Roberto Martinez.
Having only moved to Monaco on a four-and-a-half-year contract from Russian Premier League side Anzhi Makhachkala on Jan. 4, Traore admitted he was not expecting to be sent out on loan so quickly.
He said: “It was a bit of a surprise. It was not something I’d thought of. It was a proposition the club came up with, to send me to Everton so I could get more experience, play more and improve as a player.
“I belong to Monaco. That’s my club. But it’s a loan for six months, so it’s a case of looking where we are at the end of the season. If I can put in some good performances, you just don’t know in football what will happen.”
Traore will not be involved against Villa, and nor will fellow striker Romelu Lukaku, who suffered a badly-bruised ankle during Tuesday’s defeat at Liverpool.
Also missing will be right-back Seamus Coleman, centre-back Sylvain Distin and forward Gerard Deulofeu, who are all recovering from hamstring problems.
Martinez hopes that Coleman, Distin and Deulofeu will be ready for the trip to Tottenham on Feb. 9, and that Traore’s debut will come either against Crystal Palace three days later, or at home to Swansea in the FA Cup the following Sunday.
“He’s not far away at all,” Martinez said. “It’s just a matter of introducing him to the group and making sure that he gets up to the fitness levels required in our league.
“I would say he would be ready in 10 to 14 days. Lacina will be introduced to the group from Monday, and from then on, we’ll see how quickly we can get him on the pitch.”
Despite a raft of injury problems at Everton over the last month, Martinez says he is unlikely to make any more additions to his squad before the transfer window shuts on Friday.
And the Spaniard indicated that defender John Heitinga may yet remain at the club until his contract runs out in the summer, as proposed moves to Galatasaray and Roma have stalled.
Heitinga, 30, has made just five appearances in all competitions for Everton this season, and is looking for regular football to push his claims for a place in Netherland’s World Cup squad.
“If I’m honest, bringing in Aiden McGeady and Lacina Traore were the big priorities we had,” Martinez said. “I’m more focused now on trying to get the players we have fit.
“With Johnny Heitinga at the moment, there is no real solution for him, so any movement between now and the end of the window will depend on how his situation develops. He was given permission to have talks with a couple of clubs, and that’s been the case over the last two days. At the moment, he hasn’t reached an agreement, and so we’ll find out what the final outcome is over the next 48 hours.
“It’s very important that, in this window, Johnny finds the right solution for him from now until the end of the season. If that solution is to stay with Everton, well, he’s someone we never wanted to lose in the first place. It’s not an issue in that respect.”