Omar Abdulrahman will have surgery on his knee on Wednesday as the UAE international begins what is expected to be a lengthy rehabilitation from injury.
The Al Hilal playmaker, 27, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the Saudi Pro League match against Al Shabab Riyadh on October 20. Initial scans were delayed given the swelling around the joint, but tests later confirmed Abdulrahman's injury was as serious as first feared. He will have the operation in Barcelona, Spain.
Although no official confirmation has come as of yet, Abdulrahman is almost certain to miss the 2019 Asian Cup, which takes place in the Emirates from January 5-February 1.
Abdulrahman's absence represents a huge blow for the UAE and the event as a whole. The former Al Ain captain, the 2016 Asian player of the year, is one of the most celebrated footballers on the continent and was tipped to shine at its showpiece football tournament. He starred at the most recent Asian Cup in 2015 as the national team took bronze in Australia - their best result on foreign soil.
The UAE kick off the Asian Cup against Bahrain in Abu Dhabi on January 5, before rounding off their Group A campaign against Thailand in India. The national team finished runner-up the last time the tournament was held in the Emirates, in 1996.