Barcelona captain Carles Puyol is facing eight weeks on the sidelines after dislocating his left elbow in the Champions League win over Benfica last night.
The 34-year-old defender, who had only just returned to the side from a hamstring problem, landed awkwardly 15 minutes from the end of the 2-0 victory and was carried off on a stretcher in obvious discomfort.
He was allowed to fly back to Barcelona with his team-mates following initial treatment before spending the night in a local hospital, where tests carried out this morning confirmed the dislocation.
A statement on www.fcbarcelona.com read: "The club captain will undergo conservative treatment and is expected to be out for about eight weeks."
Puyol was discharged from hospital today following visits from club president Sandro Rosell and sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta.
Before his release, the player sent a message of gratitude to fans and medics from his Twitter account.
"We are back in Barcelona," Puyol said.
"I want to thank everyone who looked after me in Portugal. I'll soon be back to my best again! Thank you for all your messages - a big hug to all of you."
Ya en bcn! Quiero dar las gracias a todos los q me han tratado en Portugal! Pronto a tope! Un abrazo twitter.com/Carles5puyol/s…— Carles Puyol(@Carles5puyol) October 3, 2012
Despite Puyol's optimism, the news of his eight-week lay-off comes as a blow to coach Tito Vilanova, who is already without fellow defender Gerard Pique because of a foot injury.
With Barca facing Real Madrid in 'El Clasico' this weekend, Puyol's injury could not have come at a worse time although Vilanova is hopeful the team can patch up the gaps in their back-line.
"I've always said it, we've always had problems with our central defenders, but we'll move forward," he said.
"It's not just that we've lost Puyol for the Clasico on Sunday, but we've lost him for other matches as well.
"The injuries mean we will have to play players in positions that aren't their own, but we'll use our youth players [to cover the absences], that's why we have them."
Puyol is likely to be out of action until December at the earliest and as well as missing several Primera Division matches, he could also sit out the rest of Barca's Champions League Group G campaign including the upcoming double header against Celtic.