Belgium’s Christian Benteke will miss the World Cup finals after Aston Villa confirmed their star striker has suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Benteke sustained the injury in training on Thursday and is expected to be sidelined for at least six months following surgery.
Villa manager Paul Lambert had been uncertain of the full extent of the problem when he attended his weekly press conference on Thursday, but a scan revealed the severity of the damage and the likely length of Benteke’s rehabilitation.
“Christian Benteke will undergo surgery after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon injury today [Thursday] in training,” a message on Villa’s official Twitter feed announced. “He will be out for a minimum of six months.”
Benteke’s injury is a shattering setback for the 23-year-old, who had hoped to showcase his talents at the World Cup after a difficult season with Villa.
Lambert hopes Benteke can use his frustration to make a successful comeback next season.
“It’s a terrible blow both for Christian and for the club,” Lambert said. “He will miss the rest of the season, obviously, and also the World Cup, but he’ll work hard because that’s what he does and he’ll come back for us stronger than ever next season.”
Belgium face South Korea, Algeria and Russia in the group stages at the World Cup finals in Brazil that start in June.
They were placed among the top seeds following a dramatic resurgence in the country’s fortunes sparked in part by Benteke, who has become part of a vibrant attack along with Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard.
That firepower made Belgium one of the tournament’s dark horses.
Manchester City’s and Belgium centerback Vincent Kompany, captain of club and country, sent his support to Benteke.
“Wishing you all the strength you need @bentekechris20 and I hope you will recover quickly! We’re all with you together!” Kompany wrote on Twitter.
Benteke is Villa’s top scorer this season, but has only 11 goals to his name after struggling to recapture the form which made him so highly praised in his debut Premier League season last year.
Lambert was reportedly unhappy with Benteke’s form during a goal drought that lasted 12 games earlier this season, but Benteke gradually worked his way back into Lambert’s good books by scoring six times in his past 10 appearances, including strikes against Liverpool and Arsenal.
The former Royal Standard de Liege forward, who moved to Villa from KRC Genk for ￡7 million (US$11.6million) in August 2012, had been linked with a move away from the Premier League club, but that transfer talk is likely to be put on hold until he regains full fitness.