Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate has extended an olive branch to Abel Xavier by revealing he may still have a future at the Riverside Stadium.
The veteran Portuguese defender is in line to return to action for the Boro reserves next week despite the club terminating his contact when he failed a drugs test last September and was subsequently handed a one-year UEFA ban.
But Southgate has not ruled out a first-team return for the 33-year-old, who has been training with the club since August.
"Abel has been training with us for some time now and gradually improving his level of fitness," revealed the Boro boss.
"There has been no opportunity to have a look at him in a match because we have had to wait until his ban is finished.
"It is almost over now and the next step will be to have a look at him in action and assess what level of fitness he has achieved.
"Abel's attitude in training has been excellent. He has been working hard and indicating that he feels he has a point to prove.
"Now I need to see him in a match to see if we take it any further."