Football: Ronaldo stays behind as Inter depart

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The Independent Online
SO ALEX FERGUSON will not, after all, have the world's greatest striker to worry about tomorrow night. Ronaldo himself put an end to the possibility that he would appear in the first leg of the European Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford when he announced last night that he will not be on the flight carrying Internazionale's squad from Milan today for their meeting with Manchester United.

Yesterday afternoon the Brazilian went through a final session designed to test his injured knees. After coming off the practice pitch at La Pinetina, Inter's training centre, he spoke to the coach, Mircea Lucescu, the club doctor, Paolo Volpi, and his own physiotherapist, Nilton Petroni. Their conclusion was that he would be better off continuing the programme of work in the gymnasium and the swimming pool which he has been pursuing since his last appearance, at Bologna in Serie A on 17 January.

"I'm staying here to carry on training," Ronaldo said. "It's the best thing to do, so then when I do come back it's not once again a question of playing one match and then having to miss the next one. Inter's fans must understand that in this situation I am the one who suffers worst."

Over Christmas, Ronaldo went home to Brazil for an intensive course of treatment to the chronic tendinitis affecting both knees, the right in particular. But on his return he found that he was still playing through pain, and the decision was taken to try and get him fit once and for all. Last week he left the gymn and returned to training sessions with his team- mates, in the hope that he would at least be able to take a seat on the substitutes' bench at Old Trafford.

"Ronaldo doesn't want to speak about a particular date for his return," Inter's spokesman, Sandro Sabatini, said. "But we'll watch his situation, and maybe he can play part of the Coppa Italia match against Parma next Tuesday, and then in the Milan derby the following Saturday." And if those matches went well, Sabatini added, he would be ready to line up against Ferguson's men in the second leg, at San Siro on 17 March.