England midfielder David Beckham has torn his Achilles tendon, according to AC Milan boss Leonardo, and his hopes of playing at the World Cup would appear to be over as he is set for surgery in Finland on Monday.
The on-loan 34-year-old, a former Three Lions captain, hobbled out of the late stages of Milan's win over Chievo on Sunday night and it is speculated that he could now be facing between five and eight months of rehabilitation after pulling up when unchallenged.
Beckham signalled to the bench that he needed to come off, despite Leonardo having used all of his substitutes, and the Milan manager has now said that the veteran has torn his left Achilles tendon.
"David's injury gives us pain", Leonardo told Sky Italia. "It's an important injury. He immediately said it (the tendon) was broken. He immediately understood it was an important problem."
A short statement on AC Milan's official website read: "A rupture of the Achilles tendon is suspected."
AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani is quoted as saying that the player will be out for, "probably five or six months".
He is also credited as saying: "I saw him and he was suffering. In the dressing room, I took him in my arms and told him that if he wanted, he will be with us next year."
Club physician Jean Pierre Meersseman is quoted as telling Sky Italia that Beckham will fly to Finland on Monday for surgery where he will be treated by specialist surgeon Sakari Orava.
"He'll go to Finland tomorrow and will be operated on probably tomorrow afternoon or Tuesday morning," Meersseman said.
A Sky Italia television reporter on the San Siro touchline had earlier said Beckham had told the bench, "It's broken, it's broken" as he was stretchered off with his head in his hands and was left in tears.
Beckham had joined Milan on loan from Los Angeles Galaxy in order to boost his chances of impressing England boss Fabio Capello ahead of this summer's World Cup, which kicks off in June.
The ex-Manchester United and Real Madrid star had already confessed earlier in the weekend that he did not believe he was guaranteed a place at the finals in South Africa as he aimed to become the first Englishman to appear at four World Cups.
"He is an extraordinary guy and today's game proves it yet again," Leonardo added. "I cannot enjoy this evening considering this serious injury."
Capello is understood to have spoken with Beckham on Sunday night to commiserate over the injury, while England assistant Franco Baldini has also been in contact and Milan's players are in shock.
"Beckham is not well," said midfielder Ignazio Abate. "To see him suffer like that has really touched us."
Clarence Seedorf found it hard to celebrate his match-winning strike against Chievo.
"It's always ugly to be out because of an injury," said the Dutchman. "But it will mean that we will all need to give everything we have even for those who will not be with us.
"They deserve that for what they have done so far this season."
Will David Beckham play for England again after his apparent Achilles tendon injury?