Real Madrid goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas will miss their Champions League last-16 tie against Manchester United after being ruled out for up to 12 weeks following surgery on his left hand on Friday.
The nine-times Euro Cup champions reacted swiftly by signing their former ’keeper Diego Lopez from Sevilla FC as cover, the Andalusian club said on their Web site.
“The operation has gone well,” said Miguel Del Cerro, the doctor who carried out the surgery on Casillas.
“The recovery period is eight to 12 weeks,” he told reporters after having inserted two screws in the ’keeper’s hand.
Spain’s No. 1 was injured during the Copa del Rey quarter-final second leg against Valencia on Wednesday when defender Alvaro Arbeloa accidentally kicked his hand while trying to clear the ball.
Jose Mourinho’s side went on to win the tie 3-1 on aggregate, setting up a semi-final against archrivals and holders Barcelona.
Casillas will also miss both legs of the Cope del Rey clasico. The first game is on Wednesday and the return will be on Feb. 26 or Feb. 27, ahead of the weekend La Liga meeting between Spain’s two biggest clubs.
The ’keeper will also be unavailable to Spain manager Vicente del Bosque when the world and European champions play Uruguay in a friendly on Feb. 6.
Lopez, 31, came up through the youth ranks at Real and was No. 2 to Casillas in the first team for two seasons between 2005 and 2007 before moving to Villarreal.
He was sold to Sevilla when Villarreal were relegated last season, but has struggled to secure a place in the starting line-up.
Lopez will be valued for his Champions League and international experience, having been a member of the Spain squad on several occasions.
According to media reports, he has agreed a three-and-a-half year deal with Real for a transfer fee of about 3.5 million euros (US$4.72 million).
Mourinho surprisingly dropped Casillas for the league games on either side of the mid-season break, a move which proved extremely unpopular among home fans. Reserve ’keeper Antonio Adan made two starts in his place.
In the second game, Adan was sent off, Casillas was restored to the starting line up and since then, Real’s defense has improved.
The equalizer conceded by Adan against Valencia on Wednesday was the first goal scored against Real in five matches.
The longer-than-expected recovery time for Casillas adds to the problems facing Mourinho after a turbulent week in which Angel Di Maria and Fabio Coentrao picked up suspensions that rule them out of the Copa del Rey first leg, along with Sergio Ramos.