Bayern Munich striker Lukas Podolski has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, the club announced on Thursday.
The Germany international has been struggling with a calf problem believed to have its origins in a back injury, but following an MRI scan on Wednesday it was discovered that the 21-year-old has serious cartilage damage to his left knee.
Podolski, who has scored just seven goals in all competitions this season, is now set for a three-month spell on the sidelines after undergoing surgery on Thursday.
Bayern head coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said: “He’s almost certainly had the problem for a while.
“He could have continued playing, but there was always the danger the problem would have worsened.”
The news is a further setback to a Bayern side who find themselves nine points behind Bundesliga leaders Schalke with just four games left to play in the season.
They already have injury concerns over Oliver Kahn, Owen Hargreaves and Mark van Bommel ahead of Saturday’s crucial home encounter against Hamburg.
Bayern also revealed on Thursday that French centre-half Valerien Ismael will miss the rest of the campaign after the player suffered a reaction to the double leg break he suffered last year.