Romelu Lukaku is in danger of missing the World Cup because of a thigh injury, with Belgium coach Roberto Martinez warning that he is prepared not to select the Inter striker.
Lukaku, who has scored 57 goals in his last 60 international appearances, has already seen his 2022/23 club season hampered by hamstring trouble.
That injury, followed by a fresh thigh muscle issue, has resulted in the 29-year-old featuring only four times in all competitions for Inter.
Lukaku, on loan with the Nerazzurri after a failed return to Chelsea, made his comeback against Sampdoria at the end of October but then had to miss games against Bayern Munich, Juventus and Bologna this month because of his latest setback.
The former Everton and Manchester United player was on course for his third World Cup after previously being selected in 2014 and 2018, but now his involvement is up in the air.
Martinez has confirmed that he will only pick Lukaku if he is fit enough to play in at least one of Belgium’s three game group games. That means he is in a race against time, with the Red Devils wrapping up the first round on 1 December when they face Croatia.
If medical staff decide that Lukaku wouldn’t be fit until the knockout rounds, he won’t go to Qatar.
“For the moment he is not available and is in the hands of the doctors. If he is in a position to participate in one of the first three matches, Romelu is a player we need,” Martinez told L’Equipe.
“If he can’t play in the group stage, he won’t be with us. We work day by day, but right now the decision is totally medical: we know him very well and see various signs of improvement.
“However, healing from a muscle injury is very individual. We will wait to decide shortly before having to deliver the list of those called up. If he is able to return to the field by 1 December, he will be with us. Otherwise, no.”