Football: Gascoigne is backed by Riedle: Lazio team-mate supports England's absent enigma

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THE 'refuelling' controversy returned to haunt Graham Taylor yesterday, when Karlheinz Riedle, who plays with Paul Gascoigne at Lazio, suggested a 'difference of opinion' with the England manager, rather than club commitments, lay behind Gascoigne's absence from the US Cup.

Officially, England's most gifted footballer is not here because his Italian employers wanted him for an end- of-season trip to Canada, which has now been cancelled. According to Riedle, whose availability for Germany was never in doubt, Gascoigne would have been released, too, had Taylor wanted him.

'As far as I know,' he said, 'there were some differences of opinion between Paul and Graham Taylor. It was not a question of Lazio stopping him from coming here.'

Riedle added that he had seen no evidence to support the suggestion that Gascoigne was drinking his career away. 'As a team-mate, I've known Paul for a year now, and he has been well disciplined in all respects. I have never seen him anything other than sober, and it is unlikely that he eats differently from the rest of us, or eats the wrong food. He is a good sportsman. There is nothing wrong with his behaviour.'

Riedle had been 'surprised' by Taylor's public criticism of the player the Germans still regard as England's best. 'If there are problems, I would have thought a coach should go to the individual on a private basis and have a quiet word with him, or perhaps read the riot act if necessary.

'Going public with this sort of thing is absolutely not on.'

Despite England's poor form of late, Germany still regard the old enemy as dangerous foes, and Riedle expects Taylor's team to raise their game and put up 'a big battle' in the Silverdome tomorrow.

'All good teams have temporary problems with co-ordination, and England are going through a difficult phase,' he said. 'We know what that is like. We have all been through it ourselves. When they play us, though, England are always strong opponents. They are having problems qualifying for the World Cup, but they can overcome those.'

Did he expect England to qualify? A shrug. 'All they need is a night of luck when they play the Dutch.' And Gazza, of course.

Bayern Munich will not be signing Milan's Dutch international, Ruud Gullit, even though he had agreed personal terms with the German club. Uli Honess, Bayern's general manager, said that Gullit's girlfriend does not wish to move to Munich.

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