China's star footballer Zheng Zhi, a fixture with the English club Charlton, is likely to miss the upcoming Beijing Olympics due to a back injury, state media reported.
Zheng has a herniated disk in his lower back and doctors say he may have to sit out the Olympic Games to recuperate, the Titan Sports Weekly reported.
However, there was a chance that the star midfielder would recover in time for the August Games, the paper said.
"We will not easily let Zheng Zhi sit out (the Olympics), he is China's best player at the moment, the Olympic team needs him, but we need a Zheng Zhi in top form," the paper quoted China's Serbian coach Ratomir Dujkovic as saying.
Dujkovic said he was prepared for the worst and had already begun searching for another player to take Zheng's place.
Zheng skippered China's national team last month when it failed to advance out of the first round of 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifying, scoring only six points from six games and greatly disappointing Chinese fans.
The Charlton midfielder played injured during several of the FIFA World Cup qualifying matches.