Liverpool defender Jon Flanagan has been ruled out for between six to nine months following surgery on a persistent knee injury.
The 22-year-old hasn't been seen in action in a Liverpool shirt since pre-season, with no competitive outings made in the 2014/15 campaign despite recently playing a part in the All-Star charity game organised during the international break at Anfield.
It is a huge blow to a player who appeared to have made the breakthrough last season as the Reds came agonisingly close to ending the wait for their first top-flight title since 1990.
The news represents a bitter blow not just for the defender but the squad itself as it will surely reinforce the need for Liverpool to buy another full-back in the transfer market - as Glen Johnson is due to leave the club at the end of the season, while Javier Manquillo has been injured ever since joining on loan from Atletico Madrid during the summer - as the news means Flanagan is likely to miss the first half of next season.
This season's Liverpool team has been criticised for its lack of toughness and hunger, two things that Flanagan seems to carry in his game, which emphasises how big a setback it is for both the team and the player so soon after he was given the all-clear to return to full training.
Flanagan is also out of contract in the summer and some fans will not want to see another local home-grown talent leave the club. Many would like to see him tied down to a new deal during his recuperation, but others are worried about the risk involved in offering fresh terms to a player back on the treatment table.
Here is a flavour of what has been said by Liverpool fans on Twitter:
Like to think the club does the right thing and boxes Flanagan's contract whilst he recuperates. Devastated for the lad. We've missed him.— Andy Heaton (@Andrew_Heaton) April 30, 2015
tbf, an on-crutches, post-surgery Flanagan is probably about as mobile as Glen Johnson— oh you beauty (@natefc) April 30, 2015
John Flanagan seems to be heading down the same road as Martin Kelly....— Gerard Ferguson (@GerardFerguson) April 30, 2015
Flanagan injured again. Joke if we consider to renew his contract. Will never be good enough to play for LFC.— Robin Bylund (@robinbylundLFC) April 30, 2015