Who needs the magic sponge? Van Persie turns to new-age healer

Despite Arsenal's doubts, the striker has flown to see a Serbian doctor who treats injuries with placenta fluids

Robin van Persie has been permitted by Arsenal to visit a Serbian doctor who has been known to use fluids from placentas to heal her patients, although the Arsenal medical department have serious misgivings over her credentials and whether she will have any effect on his ruptured ankle ligaments.

In one of the most extraordinary attempts by a footballer to recover from injury, Van Persie travelled to Belgrade yesterday to visit the clinic of Dr Marijana Kovacevic who has built a reputation among European footballers for being something of a miracle healer. She uses massage and electrolysis to treat injuries and has worked with many players from Serbia's national team

The Dutch international sought Arsenal's permission to visit Dr Kovacevic after he was recommended to her by his Netherlands team-mate Orlando Engelaar who suffered from a similar injury earlier in the season. After consultation with Colin Lewin, Arsenal's head physiotherapist, and club doctor Gary O'Driscoll, Van Persie was allowed to visit Belgrade but he is expected back in London by the end of the week

Last night Marko Pantelic, the Serbia striker who plays for Ajax told The Independent that he had been treated by Dr Kovacevic and had recommended her to his team-mates. Pantelic said: "I know that a lot of players, among them some Premier League players, come to Marijana Kovacevic for treatment, especially those from the Serbian national team.

"I have a problem with a muscle in my leg and I visited her a couple of days ago. I expect the recovery to last less then was first thought. I have been going to her for the last seven years.

"As for Robin, I strongly recommend him to come and if he follows her instructions – and this is the type of injury she can treat – he will be back playing five or six times quicker than expected. I don't know a great deal about her methods but as far as I can tell you she treats muscle, or ligaments, with electronic signals and with some placenta. She enters under the skin and treats wounded tissue."

The injury to Van Persie, sustained in a challenge with Italy's Giorgio Chiellini during the friendly on Saturday, means that Arsenal have only one fit centre-forward, Eduardo da Silva (left), for Saturday's game against Sunderland. The club said yesterday that they expected Van Persie to be out for six weeks, unless Dr Kovacevic can work her magic.

Van Persie made the announcement in a telephone interview on Sunday night with Studio Voetbal, a Dutch football television show, admitting that Dr Kovacevic – who first became known in the Netherlands when she treated the PSV Eindhoven midfielder Danko Lazovic – had some unorthodox working practices.

Van Persie said: "She is vague about her methods but I know she massages you using fluid from a placenta. I am going to try. It cannot hurt and, if it helps, it helps. A scan showed that my ankle ligament was almost completely torn off where Chiellini caught me but it was not intentional. I was lucky, it could be worse."

In Serbia there have been reports that Dr Kovacevic has been made lucrative offers for her Belgrade clinic but she has held out. In recent times Serbia has become a focal point for "medical tourism" with people from all over Europe taking advantage of the country's relatively low costs and high medical expertise to have operations carried out.

As for Arsène Wenger, he is left waiting on the fitness of three of his four strikers with Nicklas Bendtner out until the early part of next month following groin surgery. The club are still awaiting Theo Walcott's return from knee injury and he has a chance of playing against Chelsea at the Emirates a week on Sunday.

The loss of Van Persie at such a critical stage of the season is the blow that will be hardest of all for Wenger's side to bear. After the departure of Emmanuel Adebayor in the summer, Van Persie has looked the most impressive player in Wenger's team with 15 goals already this season in a central striking role in the new 4-3-3 formation.

Eduardo scored twice for Croatia in their 5-0 win over Liechtenstein at the weekend and said afterwards that he believed his form had turned the corner since a poor performance against Tottenham this month. He said: "Against Tottenham I missed one big chance in particular, when I was one-on-one with the goalkeeper.

"But I will not worry about that chance, I feel strong in my head and body. It is good I was in the position to have the chance because, if you keep doing that, then the goals will come."

Tough breaks: Van Persie's record

Previous injury problems
Jan 06: Broken toe. One month out.
Jan 07: Broken metatarsal. Season.
Oct 07: Twisted knee. Two months.
Jan 08: Thigh strain. Two months.

*Games Van Persie could miss
Sunderland PL (a) , Standard Liège CL (h), Chelsea PL (h), Manchester City LC (a), Stoke City PL (h), Olympiakos CL (a), Liverpool PL (a), Burnley PL (a), Hull PL (h), Aston Villa PL (h).

*PL Premier League fixtures, CL Champions League, LC League Cup.

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