Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer has started running laps outside on his 32nd birthday as the Germany goalkeeper seeks to return to full fitness ahead of the World Cup.
Neuer has been sidelined since September after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured foot, and there had been concerns the former Schalke man would not be back in action this season.
The shot-stopper, noted for his comfort on the ball and his ability to act as an additional defender by taking up an advanced position when his team are in possession, was an important part of the Germany team that won the World Cup in Brazil four years ago.
Should he be passed fit, Neuer remains likely to start when Joachim Low’s team attempt to defend their crown in Russia.
And Bayern announced on Tuesday the club captain has completed two 10-minute sessions of running outside, under the watchful eye of fitness coach Thomas Wilhelmi.
Sven Ulreich has deputised between the posts for Bayern this season, while Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen is likely to start for Germany if Neuer does not recover in time.
Bernd Leno and Kevin Trapp of Bayer Leverkusen and Paris Saint-Germain respectively are among the other options at Low’s disposal.