Luckless Socceroos star Martin Boyle has undergone surgery after a shock discovery in the wake of his World Cup disappointment.
The 29-year-old was withdrawn from the Australian squad at the last minute after failing to prove his fitness following a suspected meniscus injury suffered in late October.
Doctors in Qatar soon uncovered a more significant concern, with fresh scans revealing a pre-existing ruptured ACL in his knee.
Watch the latest sport on Channel 7 or stream for free on 7plus >>
Boyle went under the knife this week and watched the Socceroos’ clash with France from his hospital bed.
He will miss the rest of the Scottish football season for relegation-threatened Hibernian.
“It has been a tough few weeks for Martin and we are all gutted for him,” manager Lee Johnson said.
“Now, it’s up to us to rally around him and make sure we support him on every level throughout his recovery.
“Short term – it is a big blow for us, but we will do everything we can to support Martin to make sure he comes back fitter, stronger and a better player than before.”
Boyle’s World Cup withdrawal marked the second time he had missed a major international tournament due to a knee injury after he was scratched from the Socceroos’ 2019 Asian Cup squad.
He could finally get his chance at the next Asian Cup, which is expected to be delayed until January 2024 following its belated relocation to Qatar from China.
But the Scottish-born footballer will first need to prove his fitness after rehabilitating his knee over the next six to nine months.
Boyle agreed to join Saudi Arabian club Al-Faisaly in January this year – a stint that lasted just six months before returning to Hibernian – in part to cash in before his injury toll caught up with him.
“We both come from working-class families so this is an opportunity for Martin to go and set us up for life,” Boyle’s wife and fellow Hibernian footballer Rachael said at the time.
“It’s something he just couldn’t turn down. Football is a short career and with the serious knee injuries he has had, we know that at any given moment that could all change.”
Speaking well before the ACL revelation, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold said the coaching staff were “80-20” that Boyle would be ruled out of the World Cup squad.
“But we had to give him every last minute and every last chance to try and get fit especially because of the sacrifice and everything that he has done through the whole campaign,” he said.
“The medical staff have done everything they possibly can and yesterday was pretty much the last chance and it didn’t come through well.”
Football Australia initially announced Boyle would remain in camp for the duration of the team’s World Cup campaign.
“We’re all sad for him because he did so much and contributed so much to getting us here,” teammate Mat Leckie told reporters ahead of the France clash.
“It’s just another reason for us to do it for him. He’s devastated. But one thing is, he obviously gave everything he could to try to get himself fit. He wanted to give it a real crack and it was just not meant to be.”