Paul Lambert insists having Aston Villa defender Richard Dunne back available at full fitness is his priority rather than the future of the Republic of Ireland international.
But Villa manager Lambert admits Dunne, who will become a free agent this summer, will "not need to prove himself" in terms of his ability should a new contract eventually be on the agenda. Dunne has undergone three groin operations since the end of last season and has suffered another setback after returning to training two weeks ago.
He has hardly played for 12 months after a shoulder injury caused him to miss the final third of last season before returning for the final two games. Lambert confirmed the former Manchester City player will not require further surgery on his groin but is unsure when the player will be available. He said: "I don't know. He's been having setbacks."
He added: "We will have to see what the surgeon says.
"We are still no further forward but he doesn't need another operation.
"He's got to keep battling through it. He's still a bit sore."
When asked if there was chance of Dunne earning a new contract, Lambert said: "I think first and foremost we need to get the guy back fit.
"That's the big thing for me, to get Richard back fit as quickly as we can.
"Richard Dunne will not need to prove himself. I know what he can do.
"He doesn't need to impress. He's not 19 or 20 years old. The main thing for me is that he's going to be fit again."