Newcastle's Scott Parker is likely to miss the rest of the season after being diagnosed with glandular fever, acting manager Glenn Roeder has confirmed.
Parker has been in good form for the Magpies this season
But Roeder said he was confident he would return stronger than ever next season and could even be team captain.
"The doctor thought he might have had this hanging around for a month or so, but he's driven on," he said.
"Our fans have seen enough to know he'll be a big favourite for many years and potentially the next captain."
The news will come as a blow to the Magpies, who have seen the former Charlton player thrive since his £6.5m summer move from Chelsea to St James' Park.
When fit, he has been a regular for Newcastle, but Roeder said that in recent games he had clearly been struggling.
"He's been absolutely shattered after the last six games or so, ridiculously tired, but other than saying that he was shattered, he's not complained," he said.
"But after Sunday we decided to do some blood tests. Now we have to decide how we look after him as he's the most important - we wouldn't think of asking him to play if there's a health risk.
"He's devastated and genuinely so upset that there is a possiblity he won't play again this season."
Roeder also spoke of his frustration at Michael Owen's fitness, but said he hoped to see him turn out for the team again this season
Last week the England striker needed surgery to replace a screw in his broken foot bone.
"It's not me trying to con anybody, we didn't expect a problem but we got one, which is frustrating," said Roeder.
"We're wondering if he might be fit for the West Brom and Chelsea games - I don't think he'd want to join the World Cup squad without any competitive games.