Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp has been forced to accept that midfielder Amdy Faye will be out for the first three months of the season.
A specialist has delivered the shattering verdict after Senegal international Faye failed a medical on his right knee having agreed a £3m (€4.5) move to Fulham.
At first, Portsmouth claimed he had merely changed his mind about the transfer opportunity and decided to stay at Fratton Park.
Redknapp eventually admitted the player had been sent back to him but hoped Faye would get through the problem after a month’s rest.
Faye recovered from the injury last season but suffered further damage while playing seven internationals for Senegal at the end of last season. He could now require ligament surgery although this has not yet been confirmed.
Redknapp, who is now being linked with a bid for West Ham midfielder Michael Carrick, said: “It is a big blow even though we knew Amdy would be out for a spell. Now I’ve lost two cracking midfield players with (Alexei) Smertin going back to Chelsea.”
Redknapp paid £1.5m (€2.26m) for Faye from French club Auxerre just over a year ago and the midfielder avoided African Nations Cup duty with Senegal in January when the knee problem flared.
He made 31 apprearances last season and was believed to be the club’s third highest paid player behind Teddy Sheringham and Patrik Berger.
Chairman Milan Mandaric refused to give him a pay-rise when Fulham came in for him and was furious when the injury problem was revealed, calling on FIFA to ensure that countries paid the wages of players who were crocked on international duty.
Portsmouth also lost out in the race to sign another Senegal international, Papa Diop, which took the edge off their 5-1 pre-season friendly win at Plymouth Argyle.
Nigerian striker Aiyegbeni Yakubu came on as a substitute to score a second half hat-trick at Home Park.
Gary O’Neil and Lomana LuaLua also came off the bench to score for Pompey.
The club have now been given planning permission to redevelop Fratton Park with the initial building of a new East Stand.
The project will upgrade the ground to a 35,000 all-seater stadium, complete with shops and surrounding Chelsea-style village and is expected to cost at least £120m (€180m).
Pompey hope sponsors and other business concerns will pay a large slice of the expenditure but admit that they want the 107-year stadium to be unchanged this season.
The company that recently built new grounds at nearby Southampton and Bournemouth will be in charge of the reconstruction.