BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Goalkeeper Victor Valdes may have played his last game for Barcelona after tearing a right knee ligament during Wednesday's league win over Celta Vigo at Camp Nou.
Barcelona said the injury will require surgery, which would likely rule him out for the rest of the season. The 32-year-old Valdes has said he will leave Barcelona after this season when his contract expires.
"This is painful news and is too high a price to pay for these three points," said Barcelona sports director Andoni Zubizarreta.
Valdes' right knee buckled when he came down after jumping to block a routine free kick. He managed to gather in the ball but then fell to the turf and called to be substituted.
The Spanish international was carried to a cart and then shuttled off the pitch with his gloved hands covering his face.
Backup Jose Pinto took his place in the 22nd minute with Barcelona leading 1-0. Barcelona went on to win 3-0 with two goals by Neymar and one by Lionel Messi. Valdes was taken to a hospital for tests that determined the severity of his injury.
Valdes has played a crucial role in Barcelona's rise to the top of European football over the past decade. In his 12 seasons with Barcelona's first team, Valdes has won three Champions League crowns, six Spanish leagues, and two Copa del Rey titles, among various other trophies.
Valdes was also expected to compete with Iker Casillas for the starting job for Spain at this summer's World Cup.
Barcelona is trying to defend its Spanish league title. It has also reached the final of the Copa del Rey and the quarterfinals of the Champions League. It will now have to rely on the 38-year-old Pinto as it reaches the final stretch of the campaign.
Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino said that the club would not look to make an emergency move to replace Valdes, meaning the young and untested Oier Olazabal will serve as Pinto's backup.
"We won't sign a goalkeeper. We will finish the season with this group," Martino said. "I am not one to believe in bad luck, but at this stage of the season I thought everything that was to happen had already occurred. I was wrong. It's a big blow but this team has rolled with punches for some time now and we will pull through this."
Pinto has played 15 games this season, with a record of 12 wins, one draw and two losses. He had played in the Copa del Rey and for Valdes in the league and Champions League when he was injured for eighth games earlier this season.
Pinto gave his team, and the Camp Nou crowd, another scare in the second half when he slid into the goalframe, hitting his left knee on the upright. But after a brief spell gathering himself on the ground he was able to continue.
The veteran made four noteworthy saves to keep a clean sheet for the hosts.