Real Madrid striker Ruud van Nistelrooy is expected to miss the rest of the Spanish league season after having knee surgery.
The 32-year-old Dutch international had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Wednesday and the club said on Thursday that Van Nistelrooy would need six to nine months to recover after further damage was discovered during the operation.
Van Nistelrooy had originally damaged his external meniscus against Juventus last month. He returned to action after three games in last week's Champions League defeat to Juventus, but was substituted with nine minutes to play.
The former Manchester United striker underwent surgery on the same potentially career-threatening problem in 2000 when he was with PSV Eindhoven.
Dr Richard Steadman, who also operated on the Dutchman eight years ago, discovered a partial break to Van Nistelrooy's knee cap and damage to a cruciate ligament and cartilage around the knee. Madrid said the American surgeon, who has also operated on English striker Michael Owen, had already acted to repair the knee. "Of course I hope for a little luck and that this injury only keeps me out of action for a few months, like eight weeks or so," Van Nistelrooy said from Dr. Steadman's clinic in Colorado on Wednesday.
Van Nistelrooy's injury comes with Madrid under pressure following several poor performances that has put coach Bernd Schuster's future at the club in doubt.
Van Nistelrooy led the Spanish league with 25 goals after his move from Old Trafford in 2006. Madrid won the league that year and the following with the Dutchman scoring 16 goals after missing large parts of the season due to an ankle problem.
He has scored seven goals in nine matches this campaign.