Star striker Lomana LuaLua has told managerless Portsmouth they could have to do without him again for up to six games during the African Nations Cup next month.
The DR Congo forward, close to full fitness again after two months out with malaria, wants to represent his country during the tournament which begins on January 20.
Premiership strugglers Pompey are also likely to lose Senegal midfielders Salif Diao and Aliou Cisse plus Zambia’s top striker Collins Mbesuma.
LuaLua, the club’s leading personality since Nigerian ace Aiyegbeni Yakubu was sold to Middlesbrough for £7.5m (€11m) in the summer, said: “It is difficult. People keep asking me whether I will be going to the African Cup of Nations and that is certainly the aim.
“I know I could be leaving Portsmouth in an awkward position but representing my country means everything to me, especially in this tournament after we failed to qualify for the World Cup.
“Hopefully the team (Pompey) will be in a much better position by the time it comes around. Then I can leave without too much fretting.”
Diao, currently on loan at Fratton Park from Liverpool, looks a certain starter for Senegal in the Nations Cup having been a regular over the last few seasons.
Cisse, who used to captain the Senegalese side, has now slipped to the fringe of selection after failing to establish a place at either Birmingham or Pompey since the last World Cup.
Portsmouth’s former manager Alain Perrin made it known he would either sell him or loan him out in the next transfer window.
Front man Mbesuma, 21, cost Portsmouth £1.5m (€2.2m) when bought from South African champions Kaizer Chiefs in the summer but has yet to make his full Premiership debut.
Before his arrival on the south coast, though, he was a key selection for Zambia.
Next year’s African Cup of Nations takes place in Egypt and matches the Premiership players could miss include Pompey’s games against Birmingham, Bolton, Newcastle, Manchester United and the FA Cup third round tie at Ipswich.
If the countries insist on having their players from January 10, the Portsmouth players would also miss the visit of Everton to Fratton Park four days later.