Rio Ferdinand's season has ended as it began after he was ruled out of England's next two games because of a long-standing knee injury.
It completes a miserable year fitness wise for Britain's costliest defender, whose career had been relatively injury-free until he completed his £29.3m move from Leeds to Manchester United this summer.
Having travelled back to Manchester for an examination by the United club doctor, Mike Stone, it was decided Ferdinand should have exploratory surgery to assess the extent of the problem that plagued him for the last two months of United's title-winning campaign.
Although the precise length of his absence has yet to be determined, Ferdinand has already been pulled out of Sven-Goran Eriksson's squad for Tuesday's friendly with Serbia & Montenegro, as well as the Euro 2004 qualifier with Slovakia at the Riverside Stadium on 11 June.
The news completes a wretched campaign for Ferdinand, who twisted an ankle in the pre-season friendly with Boca Juniors and has suffered a series of niggling injuries since.
After being forced to sit out the first three games of the campaign, the 23-year-old then required surgery on damaged cartilage in October, which kept him out of the Euro 2004 qualifiers with Slovakia and Macedonia.
Then, after just six games back in the side, he tore a thigh muscle in a Champions' League encounter with Bayer Leverkusen that ruled him out until the Boxing Day defeat at Middlesbrough.
Although he completed the campaign without further setbacks, the early disruption contributed to his lack of consistency and failure to prove he was worth Sir Alex Ferguson's vast outlay.
United will hope to have Ferdinand back on board for their high-profile four-match tour of the United States at the end of July, but he is the latest member of the Old Trafford squad to have his summer disrupted by injury.
Nicky Butt (knee), Gary Neville (foot), David Beckham (hand) and Wes Brown (cruciate ligaments) are also unavailable for national duty this summer, leaving Eriksson to scour his squad looking for alternatives.
Birmingham's rising star, Matthew Upson, is almost certain to partner Gareth Southgate in Tuesday's game, while John Terry will be back in contention for the Slovakia encounter, so Eriksson has decided against calling up a replacement. "It is very disappointing to lose Rio Ferdinand, but this is obviously the right decision for medical reasons," said Eriksson.
"I would like to emphasise the excellent cooperation between both the club and ourselves and we look forward to seeing Rio in an England shirt again next season.
"I won't be calling anyone else into the squad because we already have central defenders in Gareth Southgate, Matthew Upson and John Terry and I have also previously called Gareth Barry and Jamie Carragher into the squad."
The FA and United were anxious to point out the smoothness with which the matter had been dealt with, avoiding the kind of controversy which attached itself to Everton's Wayne Rooney and the knee ligament injury he picked up in the last-day encounter with United, which ultimately ruled him out of the trip to South Africa, where Ferdinand aggravated his knee problem.
Having linked up with his international team-mates this week in La Manga, Rooney has been declared fit to face Serbia & Montenegro, although he may have to be content with a place on the bench. "We have checked Wayne out today," said the Everton physiotherapist, Mick Rathbone.
"He has trained in the past few days and reported no reaction so he will join up with the squad on Sunday."
Eriksson has given his squad the weekend off before they link up again in Leicester tomorrow afternoon.Reuse content