Arsenal target Julian Draxler's hopes of making his comeback in time for Schalke’s big games in February have been boosted after he returned to training.
• Cross: Draxler would suit Gunners
Draxler, 20, has not played since mid-December, when he suffered a tendon rupture in Schalke’s Champions League game against Basel, which they won 2-0 to secure their path into the knockout phase.
The Germany international returned to the training pitch on Monday, where he did some passing exercises in a group of 10 players working on their fitness, Der Westen reported.
It had initially been feared that Draxler might not return before March, but could yet return for the first leg of Schalke's last-16 tie with Real Madrid on Feb. 26. The Gelsenkirchen club also face top-four rivals Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga on Feb. 15, and mid-table Mainz six days later.
Although Draxler was not able to train in January, he still made headlines as he was linked with a winter transfer to Arsenal. The Gunners had hoped to land the World Cup hopeful to boost their Premier League title bid, but Schalke turned down the offer which came in the days leading up to the transfer deadline.
Draxler has since been linked with a summer transfer to domestic rivals Bayern Munich as well as the Gunners. That, however, has been ruled out by Schalke chairman Clemens Toennies.
"I can rule out 100 percent that Julian Draxler wants to go to Bayern," Toennies told a congress last week, and added that while he hoped that Draxler will stay at Schalke for a further "two, three years."
Toennies did admit, however, that he has little hope Draxler, who reportedly has a 45.5 million euro release clause in his contract which can be triggered in the summer, will see out his deal until 2018.
Schalke have won nine out of nine possible points after the winter break. They currently rank fourth in Bundesliga, a place that would secure their place in the Champions League qualifiers for next season. They only trail second-placed Leverkusen by six points, and third-placed Borussia Dortmund by two points. On Saturday, the Royal Blues visit Leverkusen, and could reduce the gap even more.