FIFA president Sepp Blatter last year said it would be "not rational or reasonable" to hold the 2022 finals during a Middle East summer - a statement at odds with his initial insistence the tournament would remain in its traditional slot.
And now Blatter's right-hand man Jerome Valcke has gone a step further, suggesting in an interview with Radio France the finals will be played between mid-November and mid-January.
He said: "The dates for the World Cup (in Qatar) will not be June-July. To be honest, I think it will be held between November 15 and January 15 at the latest.
"If you play between November 15 and the end of December that's the time when the weather conditions are best, when you can play in temperatures equivalent to a warm spring season in Europe, averaging 25 degrees. That would be perfect for playing football."
Valcke's claims come as a surprise just three months after Blatter said any decision on Qatar would be delayed until after this summer's World Cup in Brazil.
Blatter promised to consult with "all the participants in the World Cup and stakeholders including players, clubs, leagues and national associations" before reaching a verdict.
And reacting to Valcke's interview, FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce told Sky Sports News he did not expect an official decision until "at the very earliest, the end of 2014".
He said: "This has to be a decision that's made by the executive committee of FIFA. I'm totally surprised by what I've heard this morning.
"The situation as I'm aware was that at the FIFA executive committee would await a report set up by all the stakeholders involved...and there would be no further discussions before the December executive meeting.
"Whether Jerome was expressing a personal opinion, I don't know, but this has not been discussed by the executive committee."
The decision to award Qatar the tournament was widely criticised at the time of the 2010 vote, and the apparent inevitability of a winter tournament will have a huge knock-on effect on club football in Europe.
Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore told Sky Sports News back in August it would be "nigh-on impossible" to move the finals to winter, though there has been no official response yet to Valcke's latest pronouncement.
Europe's national associations have been more amenable, agreeing in principle to a switch last year, and UEFA president Michel Platini has long been in favour of rescheduling.
Qatar bid organisers insist they have the wherewithal to host the tournament in the summer, despite temperatures reaching 40 degrees and more, but Blatter said last year plans for air-conditioned stadia would not solve problems encountered by travelling supporters.
Couldn't think who the guy holding the world cup reminded me of. Then it came to me. Bernie Winters, from the Mike & Bernie Winters double act. Only those of a certain vintage will get this.- snagglepuss