Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini is facing six months on the sidelines after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in training.
The club confirmed the devastating injury for the 35-year-old late on Friday and the injury is likely to see €70million summer signing Matthijs de Ligt thrust into the action this weekend against Napoli for his debut.
It appeared Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci were Maurizio Sarri’s first choice centre back pairing but De Ligt now faces an extended run in the team with Chiellini out of action until 2020.
The news comes as a blow to Juventus on the eve of their eagerly-awaited showdown against title rivals Napoli this weekend.
Juventus forward Paulo Dybala tweeted: ‘CAPTAIN force @chiellini, we are all always by your side!’
Chiellini’s influence on the side cannot be underestimated and it was telling that his goal against Parma secured a vital three points in a 1-0 win on the opening night of the 2019-20 season.
Juventus looked to be prepared to let defenders further down the pecking order depart before the transfer window closes on September 2, but the injury could now dash those departures.
Daniele Rugani appeared set for a switch to Roma while Merih Demiral also appears ready to be taken off the market as the Serie A champions look to ensure they are not left short in an important position.
With De Ligt, Rugani, Demiral and Bonucci all appearing to battle for two places in Sarri’s back four, it would remain unlikely for the club to scramble late in the window for a short-term deal for another centre back to cover for Chiellini.
The 35-year-old will undergo surgery in the coming days and a successful operation would shed some light on the timeframe Chiellini and the club are working towards for his comeback.