Romanian striker Marius Niculae could be out for nine months after surgery on a serious knee injury.
The 20-year-old striker, who has scored ten goals in 18 matches for Romania, was hurt on 22 December while playing for Sporting Clube de Portugal against Vitória Setúbal. He damaged the ligaments in his left knee but the leg was so swollen that surgeons had to wait nearly a fortnight before carrying out the five-hour operation.
Niculae, who moved to Portugal from Romanian club FC Dinamo Bucuresti in the summer of 2001 and has scored seven goals in 16 league games this season, is being treated at a hospital in Lisbon. It had been hoped that Niculae would only be out of action for four months but national team doctor Pompiliu Popescu believes he may not return until September.
'Injury is very bad'
Popescu warned Niculae could risk his career by returning too soon. "I know that the injury is very bad," he said. "He will have to respect perfectly each step of the recovery process and not to force it under any circumstance."
Special precautions needed
The doctor, who will supervise the player's return to fitness when he is able to travel back to Romania, said that Niculae would have to take special precautions against further complications, including wearing "for some time" a special apparatus that will allow him to move his left leg only by 20 degrees.
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