Football: Ronaldo back in training

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ALEX FERGUSON'S circumspection on Tuesday when told that Ronaldo was in danger of missing next week's European Cup quarter-final appeared to be vindicated yesterday when the Brazilian resumed full training after five weeks of using a special sand-based surface.

The timing of his comeback remains uncertain, however, and the Brazilian striker, who played his last Serie A game in mid-January, will definitely miss Saturday's game against Juventus. The Brazilian has been suffering from tendinitis in both knees since the World Cup.

Another, lesser known,Brazilian, the teenager Rodrigo Gral, is to join Middlesbrough on trial next month. The 19-year-old midfielder was voted the outstanding player in the South American Under-20 Championships in which he was the leading scorer with seven goals. His Brazilian club, Atletico Juventus, wants a fee of around pounds 2m.

Middlesbrough are still refusing to allow their striker Marco Branca to resume his career, despite another positive fitness report. The Italian returned to the club this week claiming he was fit to resume playing after just 20 minutes of action in the last nine months. His career had been put on hold in October when Middlesbrough's orthopaedic consultant ruled a severe knee problem would no longer stand up to the rigours of professional football.

The club's spokesman, Dave Allen, said Branca was told of the club doctors diagnosis. "We advised Marco of this in October and invited him to get a second opinion. In view of what's at stake we feel he should follow the course of action everyone previously agreed, and that is to go and see Dr Dandy in Cambridge," Allen said.

Rangers and Celtic yesterday revealed they are ready to be united in an unprecedented joint shirt sponsorship deal, but no agreement is imminent.

Reports suggested a potential pounds 12m joint shirt sponsorship deal was nearing completion with NTL, the American cable television operators. However, two other firms, understood to be Bell's and Irn Bru, are also involved in preliminary discussions with both clubs.

Rangers' current sponsorship deal with Scottish and Newcastle Breweries expires this summer, although Celtic have a further season remaining with Umbro.

A joint statement from the clubs said: "Celtic FC and Rangers FC can confirm they are currently in joint discussions with three major companies regarding shirt sponsorship. No deal as yet has been concluded."

The sides did share a sponsor back in 1984 when double glazing firm CR Smith were on both teams' jerseys, but that was a result of two separate agreements.

Nottingham Forest are giving a trial to Hector Louis Gordano. The 23- year-old Argentinian right-back plays for Rosario Central, the old club of Derby's Horacio Carbonari, and has been attracting interest from Espanyol in Spain.

A bid by Bolton's manager, Colin Todd, to sign the Rangers midfielder Derek McInnes has run into an unexpected problem. The player is reluctant to move immediately because his wife is pregnant and due to deliver shortly.

John Gorman, the No 2 to Glenn Hoddle when he was England's coach, said on radio yesterday that the influence of the faith healer Eileen Drewery on the England set-up has been wildly exaggerated. "Training was normal and all the stuff about cults was blown out of all proportion," said Gorman, who went to see Drewery when he had a knee injury while a player with Tottenham over 20 years ago. "She was there for the players if they wanted to use her. One or two lads still go to see Eileen but, from the beginning, she got too much publicity."