A broken leg puts Gascoigne in doubt for next season

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The Independent Online
PAUL GASCOIGNE is facing another long spell out of football after breaking his right leg during a training session with his Italian club Lazio yesterday.

The charismatic but controversial England international was taken to Rome's San Giacomo hospital, where fractures to the tibia and fibula bones in his shin were diagnosed.

He will fly to England today for an operation which will be performed by John Browett, who operated on the anterior cruciate ligament of the same leg when Gascoigne ruptured it in the 1991 FA Cup final. The surgeon is likely to bring the fracture together by fixing a plate over the bone and screwing it in place.

Just how long Gascoigne will be missing was the subject of speculation last night. 'I am finished,' he wept as he waited at the ground for an ambulance with his father, John, and fiancee, Sheryl Kyle. However, Claudio Bartolini, the Lazio doctor, said: 'He will certainly play again. The fracture has not affected ligaments or joints.'

A Lazio spokesman said: 'The seriousness of the injury could throw into doubt whether he plays at all next season.' The fracture was set by Dr Bartolini under local anaesthetic, and Gascoigne given sedatives to help him sleep.

The latest setback in a career full of ups and downs came as Gascoigne made a rash tackle in a five-a-side game against the Lazio junior team. His right leg took the impact of a violent collision. His agent, Len Lazarus, said: 'It does not look like a particularly straightforward break. Bad luck seems to follow him wherever he goes at the moment.'

The injury is also a blow for the new England coach, Terry Venables, Gascoigne's mentor who wanted to give him a pivotal role.

It could not have come at a worse time for the 26-year-old former Tottenham and Newcastle player, who has been struggling to prove he has a future in Italy. He has missed almost half of Lazio's games this season and his club have grown increasingly tired of his injuries.

Two weeks ago he burst into tears with what the Italian press described as a 'nervous fit' after his coach, Dino Zoff, suspended him from a training session for not trying. Days earlier the club president, Sergio Cragnotti, said he was fed up with Gascoigne's failure to turn up for training. 'He needs a slap on the wrist. Technically he is a great footballer but he is no good to me if he plays one match and misses three.'

(Photograph omitted)