Hearts boss John McGlynn has warned Scottish Cup-winning skipper Marius Zaliukas may have played his last game for the Tynecastle club.
The Lithuania defender tore ankle ligaments in a tussle with Dundee United striker Johnny Russell last Saturday's 3-1 Tannadice defeat and is now likely to miss the remainder of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League campaign.
The 29-year-old - who is out of contract in the summer - was due to undergo surgery today and then faces a further 12-week recuperation period.
That led McGlynn to admit the defender, who joined the club in 2008, may never pull on a Maroon shirt again.
The Hearts manager told Press Association Sport: "Has he played his last game? Possibly, yes.
"It's a blow for Marius who has had two or three years without any injury, playing every week.
"Whether he's played his last game is getting away from the fact that it's a blow for the boy right now.
"He is the captain of the football club, he picked up the Scottish Cup in May. Unfortunately he was not able to play in the League Cup final anyway through suspension, but if he was fit he would have played in all the other games and he still would have been the captain and taken us through to the end of the season.
"He has seen a lot since he joined the club. He's been through it all. He has seen loads of fellow team-mates come and go and managers come and go, but he's been consistent throughout. That speaks volumes for him. He has been a good ambassador for the club."
Zaliukas' absence now leaves McGlynn with a choice to make as he seeks a new defensive partner for Andy Webster.
Darren Barr and Danny Wilson are options but the manager has already acknowledged that his squad is short on numbers.
"This is another experienced player that we have to go without," he said. "Danny Grainger has done his cruciate and Jamie Hamill is still getting over his.
"We don't have loads of experienced players. Hopefully we have used up our bad luck. We can do without any more of these long-term injuries."
McGlynn, however, expects the player to still play a part in the preparations for next month's Scottish Communities League Cup final date with St Mirren.
He said: "He is a big character, once he gets through this operation and gets back to the club I am sure he will be lending a hand with his advice and experience to the younger players particularly."
The Gorgie boss' preparations for Saturday's Tynecastle meeting with Kilmarnock were disturbed by revelations that club owner Vladimir Romanov's Lithuanian Bank had gone into administration.
Kaunas-based Ukio Bankas has been forced to suspend activities after its share price fell to an eight-year low and amid allegations it was taking too many risks.
Although UBIG, the Romanov company that controls Hearts, and the bank are separate entities, the news did spark fresh concern among fans so soon after the club faced a winding-up order over a £450,000 unpaid tax bill just late last year.
Tynecastle director Sergejus Fedotovas released a statement downplaying those fears, insisting "events in Lithuania will have very little effect on our day-to-day business".
McGlynn said: "We were told before the statement came out what the statement would say. And that is what I believe."
While Hearts must still address their own financial worries, McGlynn admitted that 12 months on from Rangers entering administration, he can still hardly believe what then followed with the Ibrox club's liquidation and demotion to the Irn-Bru Third Division.
He said: "No-one in my lifetime, my generation, could have thought that would have happened. It went on for six months, and got heavy at the end.
"It's a tribute to Ally McCoist how we dealt with it. It was an incredible situation. There are clubs who keep a tight ship and don't push the boat out and fans get frustrated. But when you look at it it takes management initiative to make sure you run a tight ship.
"Scottish football hasn't collapsed. Looking at the SPL, it's what was expected would happen, Celtic would win the league. It looks a formality now but for a long time it was not such a formality.
"Look at second to second bottom, nine points separate the league. Everyone has the opportunity to get in top six. That's what we are targeting."