Antolin Alcaraz is ready to launch his Everton career - although he may have to wait until after this weekend’s derby against Liverpool.
The Paraguay defender has not featured since following manager Roberto Martinez from Wigan to Everton on a free transfer in the summer.
The 31-year-old needed a hernia operation soon after making the move but is now in full training with the squad and awaiting his opportunity.
Martinez feels it might be unfair to give him that chance as arch-rivals Liverpool visit for what is sure to be an intense occasion on Saturday, but promises a debut will come soon.
Martinez said: “He is fully fit now and has been working really well in the last week. He is one week ahead of what I expected.
“I would say he is ready to play a part in a game - that would be no problem now, but is just building that stamina and that match-fitness.
“It is probably picking the right moment. A full intense derby would probably be the wrong moment to give him the opportunity but he has been working really and has progressed really well.
“I consider him - along with Tony Hibbert - fully fit and ready to help the team.”
Alcaraz has endured plenty of frustration in the past 18 months.
He did feature in Wigan’s FA Cup-winning team last season but missed the bulk of the campaign with groin and hamstring injuries.
Martinez felt his absence was a significant factor in Latics’ relegation from the Barclays Premier League but hopes he has now overcome his problems.
He said: “It has been one of those situations where you are not helping yourself because if you have to rest a little bit to get better out of a little niggle, you want to get through it, but then it becomes a bigger issue.
“He has been so keen to try to fight for his place and that has probably gone against his physical situation.
“But the medical department have done a terrific job. They forced him to stay out, forced him to do what he had to do.
“Now he is ready to open his Everton career and make sure he is the player we all know him to be, bringing his experience and know-how into the side, which is going to be a really important weapon for the rest of the season.”