It was the news that the the England manager, Steve McClaren, surely feared most: Owen Hargreaves confirmed yesterday that he has broken the fibula in his left leg.
The Bayern Munich midfielder - England's best performer at the World Cup by some distance - had an X-ray examination on Saturday night, hours after he was carried from the pitch following a challenge from Thorben Marx midway through the Bundesliga game against Armenia Bielefeld.
"After we got back to Munich, we drove to see Dr Muller-Wohlfahrt," Hargeaves said in a statement. "It was X-rayed and it was revealed the left fibula was broken. I need to wear a plaster for three weeks, then we have to wait and see how the recovery goes."
Hargreaves has been in superb form for both club and country but the holding midfielder is set to miss a large chunk of the season, including England's Euro 2008 qualifiers against Macedonia and Croatia next month. "That's the way it is in football," he said. "Sometimes you are flying high and all of a sudden you are down again."
The England coach will rue the loss of Hargreaves, who has established himself in his national team following a series of impressive performances in the World Cup, particularly during the quarter-final against Portugal.
His emergence has freed Steven Gerrard to play a more attacking role in the team on the right side of midfield, where the Liverpool captain has excelled.
The Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick - who would now be Hargreaves' team-mate at Old Trafford if Sir Alex Ferguson had had his way - could be asked to fill the holding role which Hargreaves made his own at the World Cup, before going on to inherit David Beckham's No 7 England shirt.
Bayern's first defeat of the season means they have slipped back to third in the Bundesliga. They were leading when Hargreaves went off but Bielefeld bounced back and took the three points with a late winner from Jonas Kamper.Reuse content