El Hassnaoui to end season without single Hearts appearance

Hearts striker Soufian El Hassnaoui remains short of full fitness
Hearts striker Soufian El Hassnaoui remains short of full fitness
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Soufian El Hassnaoui is set to complete this season without making a single competitive appearance for Hearts as he continues a frustrating battle to rediscover full fitness.

The Dutch-born Moroccan forward hasn’t featured at all for the first team since suffering knee ligament damage in a pre-season friendly against Preston North End in July. After recovering from surgery to mend that injury, El Hassnaoui told the Evening News in October that he felt ready to begin the task of reviving his Hearts career. However, he has been plagued by setbacks in the intervening six months and toiled to return to a level of fitness that Hearts’ management deem satisfactory for first-team involvement. Head coach Robbie Neilson confirmed that he does not expect to see the 26-year-old back in action before this season concludes a fortnight on Sunday.

“Soufian’s still training, trying to get his fitness levels up, but it doesn’t look like he’ll make it for this season,” he told the Evening News. “We’ll take a look at it over pre-season and try to get him back up to a level where we can get him involved.

“It’s just a case of him trying to get his fitness back. Since the operation, he’s struggled to get himself 100 per cent fit. It’s been another difficult season for him.”

El Hassnaoui signed a three-year contract with Hearts at the start of last season but has endured a dismal time in Edinburgh so far. Prior to this write-off of a campaign, the ex-De Graafschap attacker managed only ten starts and 19 appearances in total in an injury-interrupted first season at the club.