Florian Lejeune could be back in training within weeks – thanks to pioneering surgery.
The Newcastle United defender ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in the summer.
Lejeune underwent surgery at an Italian clinic in early August – and the 27-year-old is already sprinting and doing ball work.
The club used the same surgeon, Professor Pier Paolo Mariani, that operated on Rolando Aarons the season before last.
And Lejeune, already warming up with his team-mates, could return to training later this month.
“The Italian people who did the operation are around, checking, and he’s fine,” said United manager Rafa Benitez, who used the surgeon during his time at Napoli.
“I don’t want to be too optimistic, but he’s had a couple of training sessions doing the warm-up with the team.
“On the ball, he can do almost everything, but he has to improve. He has to be stronger, quicker, and after he has to train with the team.
“After training with the team for a while, we can take the risk of playing him in games. It’s going really well. We’ll see how long it takes, but I think it will be sooner than everybody was expecting at the beginning.”
Speaking last month, Lejeune said: “I’m working hard on this. I have no date to go and train with the rest of the team. I keep my cards close to my chest, because one day I’m fine by the next I’m not.
“But it shouldn’t be too long before I’m back with the squad.”
The loss of Lejeune was a blow to Benitez on the eve of the new season.
Lejeune was a first-choice defender for Benitez last season, and the injury forced the club into the transfer market.
Newcastle signed Federico Fernandez from Swansea City.