Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes insists Ryan Hedges could yet have an outside chance of returning from injury this season.
Attacker Hedges is set to undergo surgery tomorrow, having ruptured a pectoral muscle.
There are fears the injury, suffered in the 2-0 loss to Livingston, has wiped out the 25-year-old’s season.
It also looks set to end Hedges’ hopes of pushing his way into the Welsh squad for the Euro 2020 finals this summer.
However, McInnes insists there could still be a glimmer of hope for a return to action, but it will all hinge on the operation and on a diagnosis by the surgeon.
McInnes said: “Ryan will go in for the operation on Friday.
“He might have an outside chance bearing in mind we are just into February.
“He had a consultation remotely with the specialist.
“Until the surgeon gets in and really explores the injury, we would be second guessing.
“The feeling is that because it is a rupture of the muscle, similar to a hamstring, you are probably talking the best part of two to three months – probably leaning more towards three months.
“He potentially could get back, maybe, if he gets the operation this week.
“Then he could maybe get back for a game or two at the end and certainly have the close season.
“But to put himself forward for the Welsh squad, he would have to be playing a lot more games.
“It is not impossible for Ryan, but certainly a bigger challenge for him now.”
Hedges suffered the injury early in the loss to Livingston last week.
It is an injury more associated with rugby and wrestling.
Hedges had been one of the top performers for Aberdeen this season, with eight goals.
He was top scorer from open play for the Dons. Although Lewis Ferguson has nine goals, six were from penalties.
Throughout the season, Hedges had talked about his target of pushing his way into the Welsh squad for the Euro finals.
Wales begin their World Cup qualifying campaign with a group tie against Belgium away on March 24.
They then have a home friendly with Mexico on March 27, before hosting Czech Republic in a World Cup qualifier three days later.
Those fixtures next month were a realistic target for Hedges on current form until his injury set-back.
Wales have confirmed a friendly against Albania at the Cardiff City stadium on June 5 as part of the build-up to the Euro finals.
The Welsh, who reached the Euro 2016 semi-finals, begin their Euro 2020 campaign against Switzerland on June 12 in Baku.
McInnes said: “I am gutted for Ryan as he had such a good campaign.
“He took on the responsibility and carried that attacking threat and speed that both him and Scott Wright had.
“It was a huge season for Ryan and his own aspirations of trying to get to the Euros.
“It is tough on Ryan and tough on the team.
“We have to try to deal with those challenges.”
Raft of injury issues to content with for Dons
The imminent surgery for Hedges is the latest in a spate of injury set-backs for Aberdeen this season.
Midfielder Dylan McGeouch returned to action in the loss to Hibs after more than three months out with a groin injury.
It was his first game time since the 3-3 draw with Celtic at Pittodrie on October 25.
Defender Mikey Devlin is currently out with an ankle tendon injury that is set to side line him for three months.
Striker Sam Cosgrove, who recently transferred to Birmingham City in a £2 million move, had the first three months of the campaign wiped out by injury.
Cosgrove fractured knee cartilage and did not return to action until that 3-3 draw with Celtic in late October.
In the latest injury blow, full-back Greg Leigh suffered a hamstring injury in the opening minutes of the 2-0 loss at Hibs.
Leigh left Easter Road on crutches.
The former NAC Breda defender had missed almost two months of the season with a hamstring injury.
“It is Greg’s hamstring again,” said McInnes.
“Having been out for a couple of months with the same hamstring, he has pulled it again. It doesn’t look good for him.”
🔴⚪️ Would switching to a back four and the return of Niall McGinn to the team help Aberdeen create more chances and get them scoring again?
— EveningExpress Sport (@ee_sport) February 10, 2021