Niklas Süle has described training with the ball again as "super" as the Bayern Munich and Germany international defender sets his sights on a return to Bundesliga action and targets UEFA Euro 2020.
The former Hoffenheim centre-back has not played since rupturing left knee cruciate ligaments on 19 October, but took a big stride forward with some passing and dribbling exercises at Bayern's Säbener Strasse training ground on Thursday.
"Of course it feels super to be kicking a ball again after four months. It's a really great thing," said the 24-year-old. "It could have been snowing today or Storm Ciara could have come again, it wouldn't have mattered to me. I'm simply so happy to be training with the ball again and taking the next step in my recovery."
Punishing sessions with Bayern's Fitness and Rehabilitation coach Simon Martinello have paid off for Süle, who had played every minute of the Bundesliga campaign until injury struck 12 minutes into the 2-2 draw at Augsburg on Matchday 8.
He may yet be back on the pitch for the record German champions this season, however, as he targets a return to competitive action for mid-April.
Back for Euro?
Not only would that give him the chance of helping Bayern claim an eighth successive league title, but also push him into contention for a place in Germany's UEFA Euro 2020 squad.
"In terms of time, it's possible," admitted Germany coach Joachim Löw, who faces an opening group stage game against world champions France in Munich on 16 June. "I know that he's trying to do all he can to be at the Euro."
Should he prove his fitness before the summer, Süle would surely be one of the first names in Löw's squad, but he still has some way to go though before he is match-ready.
"Up to now, I've not had any problems," he said. "I did a lot of controlled movements with the ball. Next week, we'll slowly start doing changes of direction with the ball."