Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini has given his club a lift by announcing that he hopes to be fit for the start of next season.
The Belgium international has been out since requiring ankle surgery after a clash with Liverpool's Sotiros Kyrgiakos three months ago. The 22-year-old has spent time in his homeland since his operation but is now having a rehabilitation period before the summer back at Everton's Finch Farm training ground.
"I am much better now, I have been at training for two weeks," Fellaini said. "The first and second months were difficult because I had my operation but now it is good. I hope to be ready for the start of next season. I will start back in July or August."
Fellaini's fortunes this season have been the mirror opposite of those of his team. He was one of their more consistent players throughout the difficult opening months of the campaign but then missed their late resurgence. Had he remained fit the Toffees might have had a better chance of completing their unlikely charge for a European place.
A run of just two defeats since December pushed Everton right into contention but last weekend's goalless draw at Stoke meant eighth place would be the limit of their achievement. "That's football," Fellaini said. "We did not have a good start."
His fellow midfielder Steven Pienaar was last night named as Everton's player of the year while the left-back Leighton Baines was voted players' player. Fellaini might have been in contention for those awards had his season not ended prematurely, but the player himself remained modest.
"I don't know if I was having a great season because I played only six months," Fellaini said. "I played well but it was not for all the season."
The club's manager, David Moyes, has said he has no plans for major summer recruitment but wants to add depth to his squad. He is hoping to tie the likes of Pienaar and the 19-year-old Jack Rodwell, who was named young player of the year, to extended deals.