Ruud van Nistelrooy is set to miss the rest of the Primera Liga season due to a knee injury, Real Madrid have confirmed.
Van Nistelrooy travelled to the United States this week to see specialist Dr Richard Steadman about his injured right knee and, after undergoing an exploratory arthroscopic operation to determine the extent of the problem, it has been decided the Dutchman will now need surgery.
Madrid said in a statement on their website: ''The estimated time he will be out is from six to nine months, depending on the recovery.''
The knee is the same one that Steadman operated on in 2000 when Van Nistelrooy suffered ligament damage while at PSV Eindhoven.
The 32-year-old Van Nistelrooy had been hoping the latest problem would only keep him sidelined for a couple of months at most, but today's confirmation that he will need surgery means he will now almost certainly miss the remainder of the season.
The Madrid statement confirmed: ''Following an exploratory arthroscopic operation on Wednesday, it was determined that Ruud van Nistelrooy had a partially torn meniscus in his right knee.
''Real Madrid's medical staff, Dr Steadman and the player decided to surgically repair the damaged knee.''
Van Nistelrooy's most recent appearance for Madrid came in last week's 2-0 home defeat to Juventus in the Champions League, when he was substituted nine minutes from the end.
Losing the former Holland international is a further blow for Madrid and their coach Bernd Schuster, who has found himself under increasing pressure following some poor recent results.
There have even been suggestions in the Spanish press that Schuster could lose his job this weekend if Madrid do not win their Primera Liga match at Real Valladolid.
Van Nistelrooy joined Madrid in 2006 from Manchester United and in his first season at the Bernabeu netted 25 league goals to finish as the Primera Liga's leading scorer.
Madrid won the title that year, and they successfully defended it last season when Van Nistelrooy, despite sitting out part of the campaign with an ankle problem, netted 16 more goals.
This season Van Nistelrooy has scored seven goals in 10 competitive appearances.