MADRID (AFP) — Real Madrid's Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy underwent an operation on his right knee in the United States and will miss the rest of the season, the reigning Spanish champions said Thursday.
"Following an exploratory arthroscopic operation on Wednesday, it was determined that Ruud van Nistelrooy had a partially torn meniscus in his right knee," the club said in a statement, adding he will "miss between six and nine months".
The 32-year-old former Manchester United player, the top scorer in the 2006-07 Spanish league season with 25 goals in 37 matches, picked up the injury during a 2-1 Champions League defeat at Juventus in October.
The Dutch striker made the trip across the Atlantic earlier this week to see Richard Steadman, who operated on him on Wednesday, the club said.
Steadman successfully operated on the same knee in 2000 after the marksman, then a PSV Eindhoven player, suffered ligament damage during a training session that threatened to end his career.
Van Nistelrooy has scored 45 league goals in La Liga, including four this season, since he arrived at Real from Manchester United in 2006 and is the second top-scorer in the Champions League with 60 goals.
His prolonged absence is another blow for the Spanish club which has been plagued by injuries which have contribued to a shakey start to the season that has raised questions about German coach Bernd Schuster's future at the club.
Real Madrid are currently fourth in the league, two points behind leaders Barcelona, and they crashed out of the Spanish Cup on Tuesday after they struggled to beat third division side Real Union 4-3 at home.
The Basque club beat Real 3-2 at home in the first leg last month and went through on the away goals rule.
Van Nistelrooy's fellow Dutchman Arjen Robben is out for up to six weeks after he suffering a leg muscle tear during a training session earlier this month while Mali international Mahamadou Diarra will be out of action for up to three weeks due to a thigh injury.
Schuster, who local media said could lose his job if Real make another poor showing during their next league match away to Valladolid on Saturday, could turn to its 19-year-old reserve team striker Alberto Bueno to fill the gap left by van Nistelrooy.
Bueno scored from long range during Real's win over Real Union on Tuesday.
Even if Real has gaps in defence, the club will now most likely recruit a new striker during the winter transfer window.
Spanish media have named Zenit St Petersburg star Andrei Arshavin, one of the stars of the Euro 2008 finals, as a likely recruit and the 27-year-old has shown his interest in joining the club.
"How could I not want to go to Real Madrid, it's a great team, one of the best," he said in a interview published Wednesday in Spanish sports daily AS.
AS said on Tuesday that Real want to sign the Russian on a six-month loan from January. The Spanish champions would then negotiate the purchase of the striker with Zenit, based on his performance during those six months, it said.
Real would be unable to play Arshavin in the Champions League as he has already turned out for Zenit in the competition this season.
In the Champions League, Real has suffered two defeats against Group H leaders Juventus, and is two points behind Zenit with two games left to play.
Schuster and Real's sports director Pedja Mijatovic, who have a tense relationship, met on Thursday morning for over two hours with the squad with van Nistelrooy's absence seen as a likely focus of the talk.
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