Ronald Koeman insists that Southampton will not rush Jay Rodriguez back to fitness.
The striker has been out since the back end of last season due to a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, but Koeman is determined not to bring him back ahead of time.
Rodriguez remains a vital player for this Southampton side. However, the implications of bringing him back before he is fully fit remain too much of a risk for the side to take.
Koeman remained tight-lipped on an exact target for his return, as a result, but he did suggest that it could be at the start of next year.
"If you said he will be fit on this date or in Decemeber, it's difficult," he said a press conference today. "It was a tough injury and he needs time and the most important is that he will come back 100%. We are not running to make him fit after six months. Maybe it will be January, maybe it will be February. We have to wait. The most important is that Jay will come back to play football."
Rodriguez scored 17 goals in all competitions for the Saints last year and when he does return he will be hoping to play at that level once again.
If he can it is sure to be a major boost for the team, although they have coped admirably in his absence.
Southampton are currently occupying second spot in the Premier League table, but they have one of the smallest squads out of all the European contenders and will want all their strongest players fit for the run in.
Rodriguez will be looking to play a big part in that and he will be hoping that the side are still in their lofty position when he does return to the field.
Due to the length of his absence rumours have been circulating that Southampton could be prepared to bring back Rickie Lambert, who they sold to Liverpool in the summer, but Koeman quashed those links.
"No, it's not true," he said. "We don't talk about that."
Koeman also revealed that the side would be determined to avoid complacency on Monday when they take on Aston Villa.
Villa have been in poor form, failing to win any of their last seven matches, but the Dutchman was taking nothing for granted.
"Aston Villa is a difficult one. They're in a difficult situation and have to win," he said.