Kevin de Bruyne could miss the next four months of the season as Manchester City decide whether he needs surgery on a hamstring injury, manager Pep Guardiola says.
The 32-year-old limped off after 23 minutes in City’s opening win against Burnley at Turf Moor on Friday.
De Bruyne also went off injured during the Champions League final win over Inter Milan in June.
“It’s a serious injury,” said Guardiola.
The Belgium midfielder missed all City’s pre-season matches and returned as a second-half substitute in the Community Shield defeat by Arsenal.
“We have to decide if he needs surgery or no surgery but he will be out for a few months,” added Guardiola, who confirmed De Bruyne’s issue is related to the same hamstring.
“The decision on surgery will be taken in the coming days and could see him miss three or four months”.
De Bruyne scored 10 goals and provided 31 assists as City claimed the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup last season.
He said earlier this month he had been playing through the pain with a hamstring injury for the final two months of the season, but Guardiola said every precaution had been taken before the game against Burnley.
“We could say don’t play but this injury could happen later,” the Spanish boss said. “Before I took the decision I spoke to the doctor, the physio and him. He said he felt good.
“I have to say the injury for Kevin is a blow for us. It’s a big loss. Kevin has specific qualities which you can lose for one or two games but, for a long time, it is really tough for us.
“At the same time you have to look forward, you have alternatives there – of course different skills, as the skills from Kevin are irreplaceable.
“We have a different talent of players and this is an opportunity; life gives you that. When there is an injury there is an opportunity for the other one, so I’m pretty sure they will take it.”
As to whether City will try and bring in reinforcements before the transfer window closes, Guardiola said: “We will see. After what happened we will see the possibilities.”
City face Europa League winners Sevilla in the Super Cup in Athens, Greece on Wednesday at 20:00 BST.
Midfielder Rodri said he was unaware of the severity of De Bruyne’s injury, but added that the squad will help the Belgian through his recovery.
“He is the one of most important players of the club. We will miss him a lot,” said Spain international Rodri.
“We will try to support him in these moments. No one wants injuries. I saw him he other day and he was positive.
“He’s an experienced player, he knows he has to recover. That’s the most important part. We will miss him but we have a complete squad to play the next the few months.”
‘City’s worse fears have been confirmed’
Phil McNulty, BBC Sport’s chief football writer
Guardiola was understandably downbeat here in Athens when he revealed De Bruyne will miss a significant period of time.
It confirmed City’s worst fears after the brilliant Belgian limped off early in Friday’s opening Premier League win at Burnley.
Guardiola must now contemplate how to fill this gap in his team, either from within or from outside, with City hoping to seal a deal for West Ham United’s Brazil international Lucas Paqueta. This latest health bulletin on De Bruyne may hasten that pursuit.
De Bruyne has been at the heart of City’s great glories and played a huge part in striker Erling Haaland’s magnificent first season at the club, creating 11 of his 52 goals.
And team-mate Rodri delivered a sharp intake of breath and raised his eyebrows when he was informed of the extent of De Bruyne’s injury when conducting his media conference after Guardiola.
City, of course, have the strongest squad of players in the Premier League, as proved by their Treble last season which saw them win a fifth title in six seasons, the FA Cup and the Champions League.
Guardiola still has a host of alternatives and could well add another in Paqueta, but he recognised the dilemma he now faces. He admitted City could cope with short absences of De Bruyne, who has had injury problems before, but the possibility of him missi