Andrew Cole, the former Manchester United and England footballer, is recuperating in hospital after undergoing a kidney transplant in his long-standing battle against serious illness.
The 45 year-old, who won the treble with United 18 years ago, underwent surgery at Manchester Royal Infirmary on Thursday as part of his treatment for Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis, a condition which causes scarring of the kidneys. Doctors are understood to have been pleased with how the planned operation went.
A statement released by United on behalf of Cole said: "Andrew and his family would like to thank the club and fans for their support and request that he can continue with his treatment in private and ask that their privacy is respected."
Cole, who will take an extended break from his role as a United ambassador during the recovery process, initially suffered kidney failure in June 2015 as a result of contracting an airborne virus. He spent three weeks in hospital undergoing a kidney biopsy, dialysis and plasmapheresis treatment and has been under the care of Dr Mike Picton, a consultant nephorologist at Manchester Royal Infirmary, and his team ever since.
In an interview with the BBC in February last year, Cole said he would be "delighted" if his kidney got back to "70-80 per cent" but deterioration in his condition since then forced the need for a transplant.
Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis is scar tissue in the filtering unit of the kidney. More than half of those with the condition develop chronic kidney failure within 10 years. Cole suffered notable weight gain as a consequence, which led to him being mocked.
"Putting on all the weight has been the toughest part," Cole said last year. "When I retired, I promised my kids I will never put on weight because when [footballers] retire they eat and drink.
"Seeing the change in my body, that has been tough, it wreaks havoc with yourself. You get comments like, 'Andy Cole's let himself go, who ate all the pies?'
"I have to take it day by day. I am four months off a year and it has been tough going through this process.
"When I admitted to myself I was ill, it was tough to accept. I didn't want my family to worry about me."
Cole won five Premier League titles with United and was a key part of the treble-winning side of 1998/99, when he formed a formidable strike partnership with Dwight Yorke to help the club win the title, Champions League and FA Cup.
He scored 121 goals in 275 appearances for United following his move from Newcastle in 1995, when he formed a similarly-potent partnership with Peter Beardsley, and is the third-highest scorer in Premier League history with 187 goals, behind Alan Shearer and Wayne Rooney. Cole played for 12 clubs in his career and made 15 appearances for England.