Gelsenkirchen - FC Schalke 04 captain Benedikt Höwedes made his long-awaited return to first-team training on Wednesday.

The 27-year-old has been out of action since mid-May following complications with an ankle injury sustained in the 1-0 win over SC Paderborn 07 on the penultimate day of the 2014/15 campaign. “It’s nice to be back out on the pitch with the lads,” the Germany defender said with a smile.

The news comes as a real boost to Schalke head coach Andre Breitenreiter, who lost Matija Nastasic to a serious ankle ligament injury on Matchday 1 and has had to use midfielder Roman Neustädter at centre-back ever since.