Sunderland boss Lee Johnson has confirmed long-term absentee Arbenit Xhemajli is back in full training after an injury-plagued stint on Wearside.

Last summer, Sunderland made an eye-catching swoop for Kosovan centre-back Arbenit Xhemajli, bringing him in from Swiss side Neuchatel Xamax.

However, since arriving, the 23-year-old has been limited to only one appearance for the Black Cats.

Xhemajli suffered a knee ligament injury back in October 2020, picking up the blow while with Kosovo’s U21s.

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However, after almost a year on the sidelines, a positive update has emerged as Xhemajli continues to work his way back to full fitness.

As quoted by Chronicle Live, Sunderland boss Lee Johnson has confirmed that the defender has been back in full training this week, expressing his delight at the sight of seeing him back on the pitch.

While he is back in training, Johnson insisted that there is still a long way to go as he works his way back to full fitness, stating that he could feature in U23s games before pushing for a return to the first-team towards the end of the year.

Here’s what he had to say:

“Arbenit trained today, which was good.

“It was great to see him out there.

“Obviously, he is a bit of a way off, but he has trained properly for the last two days and that’s a real heartwarming thing to see because I know how hard he has had to work behind the scenes and how hard the physio department have had to work to get him to this point.

“I think we are still looking at a turn of the year timescale [for a first-team return].

“But U23 games have got to be considered, probably over the next six weeks I think that could be an option.”

With a way still to go, it will be hoped that the rest of Xhemajli’s recovery can go smoothly as he bids to make a long-awaited return to action.

Competition for a spot upon return

Once he’s back in contention, Xhemajli will have a battle on his hands for a starting spot.

Tom Flanagan, Callum Doyle, Bailey Wright and Frederik Alves are all options at the heart of defence, while Jordan Willis will also be an option once he’s returned from injury.