Aston Villa defender Martin Laursen could be forced to retire from professional football after latest checks on his knee injury were not encouraging.
The Danish international has a history of knee problems and has not played for the Villans since January. He was expecting to return at the start of this month but suffered a set-back during the club's training camp in Dubai in March.
The centre-back has been a crucial figure for Villa this season and his loss mid-way through the campaign is highlighted as one reason for the club's loss of form.
Although it is not yet certain the 31-year-old will have to hang up his boots, boss Martin O'Neill admits the future looks bleak for the former AC Milan star and the decision will lie with the player.
O'Neill said: "The news on him is not great. Martin is deliberating on what to do. We were hoping that he could recover but he is having a tough time. But he will make the decision and, whatever decision he comes to, I will respect with the utmost regard.
"He has already seen a specialist and now has to make up his mind."
Laursen joined the club from Milan in the summer of 2004 but persistent knee problems meant he only made 25 Premier League appearances in his first three seasons at Villa Park.
But Laursen came back in 2007/08 to be an ever-present for the Villans, chipping in with six goals. He was again a fixture in this side this term until he suffered another knee problem against West Bromwich Albion.
Should Laursen be forced to retire the O'Neill will have to make a new central defender his number one priority for the summer.
Meanwhile, striker Gabriel Agbonlahor could return for Saturday's trip to Bolton after missing last weekend's clash against West Ham with a hamstring problem.
O'Neill added: "Gabby has done a little bit of training. He's feeling a wee bit better. We will see how he develops during the course of the week.
"We are hoping he might have a chance (for the weekend) but we're not sure yet. He's a quick healer so we're hopeful."