Ross Barkley could be back playing for Everton after his hamstring injury within the next month, according to temporary Blues boss David Unsworth.
The contract rebel has not featured at all for the Toffees this season after he suffered a grade three tear in his hamstring just days after recovering from an ankle injury that plagued his pre-season.
Speaking via the Liverpool Echo on Friday, Unsworth - who said he hoped to talk Barkley round into penning a new deal earlier in the week - revealed when the midfielder could be back in action for the first-team.
He remarked: "Ross is maybe three or four weeks away (from returning to full training)."
Barkley had stated his desire to seek a new challenge away from Goodison Park after allegedly growing tired at the criticism levelled at him by former manager Ronald Koeman last term.
With the Dutchman sacked, however, Evertonians are holding out hope that the 24-year-old will perform a U-turn and opt to stay with his boyhood club instead.
Meanwhile, Unsworth - who also revealed that Yannick Bolasie and Seamus Coleman are 'months away' from recovering from knee ligament and broken leg injuries respectively - spoke about becoming Everton manager on a full-time basis.
Some sections of Everton's fanbase have called for the former Blues defender to become the club's next permanent boss, but the 44-year-old admitted that he was still none the wise over whether he was truly in the running for the post.
When asked if his chances had improved since Wednesday's game against Chelsea he said: "No different at all. I spoke to Farhad (Moshiri) last night, and a few times with the chairman.
"I am clear in what my role is day to day. I am really focused. The team is focused. And the staff are focused. The dialogue with the chairman is really good. There’s no secrets or hidden agendas. We are honest."
Unsworth also revealed that Idrissa Gana Gueye was 'very close' to penning an improved deal after a successful first 15 months with the Toffees.
The former left-back added: "I believe we are very close which is fantastic news for Everton. We are very close and that’s great news for Idrissa and great news for me.
"He’s been great over the period of time. I have seen his performances. At Aston Villa he was a top player. So to tie him down for a number of years is great."