Christian Benteke was clearly in good spirits during Aston Villa’s annual team photo, having returned to full training on Monday for the first time in five months.
The Belgian international decided to give manager Paul Lambert’s ear a quick flick from behind, although he perhaps wisely opted against doing the same to assistant Roy Keane.
Benteke has been sidelined since April, after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon during a training session which ruled him out of the World Cup this summer, having scored 10 in goals in 26 league games up to that point of the season.
That blow to Lambert’s side came just three months after fellow front man Libor Kozak broke his leg in a training ground collision, with the club forced to battle through the closing weeks of the campaign without their two main options up front.
However, despite initial fears that he could be out for the first-half of this term, Benteke’s potential return looks to be well ahead of schedule, and reports are that he could be back in contention for first-team minutes as soon as the end of September.
While Villa have so far coped well without him, taking 10 points from their opening four league games, Lambert’s side have also recorded just six shots on target over that period, and the Scot has expressed his excitement at the prospect of having his star man available for selection again.
‘I’m delighted with the efforts of the medical team here at Villa for working incredibly hard with Christian to get him back to fitness so quickly,’ he told the club’s official website.
‘Obviously, we’ll be monitoring his fitness and we’ll continue to build him up towards a return to the team.’
The club’s standout performer since arriving from Genk in August 2012 for around £7 million, Benteke boasts an impressive league record of 29 goals in 60 games, and fans will be hoping he can rediscover that scoring form as soon as possible upon his return to the pitch.