Gradel stepping up Bournemouth comeback

Eddie Howe believes the winger and Callum Wilson will be like new signings for the Cherries if they return before the end of the season

Max Gradel is stepping up his recovery from a serious knee injury after returning to Bournemouth to work on his rehabilitation, manager Eddie Howe has revealed.

Ivory Coast winger Gradel moved to the Vitality Stadium in August for a reported £7million fee from Saint-Etienne.

Later that month, the former Leeds United star ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in a 1-1 Premier League draw against Leicester City.

Gradel has been receiving treatment abroad, but manager Eddie Howe confirmed he is now back at Bournemouth and targeting a comeback before the end of the season.

"Maxi is back now after being away intermittently," Howe said. "He's an infectious [character] and a positive member of the dressing room but he's still got a long way to go injury wise."

Striker Callum Wilson started the season in fine form with five goals in seven Premier League appearances, before he also suffered a ruptured ACL against Stoke City in September.

And Howe provided an update on his status too: "Callum will be longer than Maxi but should everything go to plan on their schedules then hopefully we should have both back before the end of the season. They'd be like new signings."

Cherries captain Tommy Elphick, who has played just once since September due to an ankle injury, turned out for Bournemouth's Under-21s in midweek, but Howe will not risk the defender against Stoke on Saturday.

"We're really pleased with Tommy's progress, he's had no reaction to the injury which is probably the biggest thing for an injured player," How said.

"He played in the Under-21s game in midweek, but we do need to make sure he's 100 per cent fit before a return."