Everton's Naismith is fouled for a penalty by Swansea's Richards during their English FA Cup fifth round soccer match at Goodison Park in Liverpool, northern England

Romelu Lukaku set to return from injury; Steven Naismith the silver-lining

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For Everton fans it was bad when Steven Gerrard thumped home Liverpool’s opener in the January 28th Merseyside derby but it was doubly painful when Romelu Lukaku collapsed to the ground holding his ankle.

Initially it looked like ligament damage but those fears were later removed when it was diagnosed as a bad sprain. And now, after three weeks of care, the Belgian striker is healthy and ready to go.

“Romelu Lukaku is fully fit now and it’s just a matter of making sure that we get him back to his level of match fitness that he needs,” Everton manager Roberto Martinez explained on Tuesday.

While the Toffees will be without Lukaku this Saturday when they face off against the striker’s parent club, Chelsea, the loan star is set to return on March 1st against West Ham United.

“It helps in a way that he’s not available for this weekend because this game may have been a little bit too early for him to be involved with the team. But now we’ve got nearly two weeks to make sure that he’s fully fit for the next home game and that’s very much a realistic target.”

In Lukaku’s absence Everton defeated Aston Villa 2-1 and lost to Spurs 0-1 in the league, while also defeating Swansea City 3-1 in last weekend’s FA Cup.

The silver-lining from Lukaku’s injury is that an unlikely hero has emerged among the Toffees in Steven Naismith. The plucky Scot scored the game-winner against Villa just four minutes after being substituted into the match, a move he replicated against Swansea when he came on in the 61st minute and put away the match-winner in the 65th.

Naismith is one of those players who, given his look and lack of size, takes an unfair amount of grief. But the winger-come-striker has the uncanny ability to score big goals (see his history in the Merseyside derby) and is a constant menace to opponents. A religious hustler with a decent touch, clever ideas and the will to insert himself into the most dangerous situations, Naismith is the archetypal ‘super sub’.

On Sunday, Naismith suffered a concussion after taking a strong blow to the head from Swansea’s Jordi Amat. After the first replay was shown on TV, there was little question Naismith was in trouble. His eyes rolled back into his head and he collapsed to the ground. It was yet another incident of a Premier League club failing to immediately remove a head injured player but Naismith, ever the warrior, continued on for a few minutes before becoming so out-of-sorts that he just plumped down on the turf.

If healthy enough to go on Saturday, Naismith may lead the line for the Toffees. More likely he’ll provide that pest-like punch off the bench when 6’8″ Lacina Traore needs a breather.

Mourinho’s agent: Coach paid $27 million in taxes in Spain

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04:  Jose Mourinho manager of Manchester United stands alongside his substitute Marouane Fellaini of Manchester United during the Premier League match between Everton and Manchester United at Goodison Park on December 4, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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MADRID (AP) Jose Mourinho’s agent says the Manchester United manager paid more than 26 million euros ($27 million) in taxes when he lived in Spain from 2010-13.

The information was made public on Tuesday by Gestifute, a company run by Mourinho’s agent, Jorge Mendes.

[ MORE: Pulisic wanted by Arsenal, Spurs ]

The Portuguese company has been releasing details about its clients’ tax declarations after European media outlets published what they claimed were details of apparent tax arrangements made by top soccer players and coaches, including Mourinho, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil.

Gestifute, which also has Ronaldo as a client, has already published documents allegedly showing that Spanish fiscal authorities have certified that Mourinho and Real Madrid star Ronaldo are “up to date on … obligations.”

Mourinho coached Real Madrid from 2010-13 and took charge of United this season.

Staying in Dallas: New contract for MLS Defender of the Year Hedges

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 12:  Giles Barnes #10 of the Houston Dynamo battles for the ball with Matt Hedges #24 of FC Dallas during their game at BBVA Compass Stadium on March 12, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images
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This is going to turn out to be one of the most exciting years of Matt Hedges’ life.

The FC Dallas man lead one of the best back lines in Major League Soccer to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters’ Shield.

[ MORE: PST talks with Hedges, Zimmerman ]

He’s also likely set for a chance to return to the USMNT fold under new coach Bruce Arena, as Hedges is one of the best players to be largely ignored by Jurgen Klinsmann.

Hedges, 26, was named the MLS Defender of the Year and made the Best XI, and now he’s inked a new long-term deal with FC Dallas.

The four-year deal will keep Hedges in Dallas through his 30th birthday. Capped once, Hedges has 159 appearances with 11 goals for FCD.

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Two more Pulisic suitors in North London? USMNT teen in demand

Dortmund's Emre Mor, left, celebrates with Dortmund's Felix Passlack and Dortmund's Christian Pulisic, right, after scoring during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and SV Darmstadt in Dortmund, Germany, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. Dortmund defeated Darmstadt with 6-0. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
AP Photo/Martin Meissner
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Christian Pulisic is one of the most exciting young prospects in the world.

It’s a statement that isn’t often said without hyperbole when it comes to American standouts, but the 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund man has seen his names in the gossip pages a few times this year.

While Liverpool has often been the destination, Italian site Calcio Mercato says Premier League interest is wider than Merseyside. The clubs? Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.

[ VOTE: Who should win USMNT player of year? ]

Dortmund doesn’t want to sell the youngster, who is locked up through 2019. The whispered price has been $31 million at a minimum, but perhaps BVB would be tempted given their wealth of young attacking options.

Pulisic has made 27 appearances for Borussia Dortmund, nabbing four goals and six assists. He has 11 caps and three goals for the USMNT as well.

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Real Madrid asks for “utmost respect” to Ronaldo following tax drama

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 03:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid reacts after missing a chance during the La Liga  match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF at Camp Nou on December 3, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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Cristiano Ronaldo had been linked with massive tax evasion, but Real Madrid would ask you to kindly go back to treating him like a king now that he’s proven his innocence.

In a move usually reserved for politicians aiming for high office, Ronaldo’s agent released some of his tax documents to prove everything’s above board.

It all looks good, unlike what befell Neymar and Lionel Messi, so back off, huh?

[ MORE: Wednesday’s Champions League preview ]

From Real Madrid:

In view of the stories published over recent days and in consideration of the certificate issued by the Spanish Tax Agency which confirms that our player Cristiano Ronaldo is up to date with all of his tax obligations, Real Madrid C. F. call for the utmost respect to be shown towards Cristiano Ronaldo, whose conduct has been absolutely exemplary throughout all of his time at our club.

Only the utmost for CR7.

Real Madrid hosts Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday in a match which will decide Group F of the UEFA Champions League.

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