Football: Ronaldo to miss United game

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The Independent Online
ALEX FERGUSON was last night refusing to play the guessing game surrounding Ronaldo.

Massimo Moratti, the Internazionale president, has claimed the striker is almost certain to miss next Wednesday's Champions' League match against Manchester United at Old Trafford because of a knee injury.

United, however, are wary of being duped by Inter and their manager said: "The only thing we're doing is preparing ourselves to play well in a tough match against formidable opposition. We'll continue to do that with or without Ronaldo in their ranks. It won't change our outlook on the game at all."

Moratti claims Ronaldo has not completely recovered from tendinitis of the knee, which has affected him since the beginning of the season.

"His condition has improved, but it is practically ruled out that we will see him in the Champions' League. He will only play when he has completely recovered."

Ronaldo, 22, has reportedly been refusing to play for Inter because of the pain in his knee and he sat in the stands for Sunday's Serie A game with Lazio even though he had been passed fit.

He has only played 16 championship games for Inter, who have had a disappointing season so far.

United have been doing their homework on the Italians and their assistant coach, Steve McClaren, went to Rome to watch them against Lazio.

Gareth Barry, Aston Villa's England Under-21 international, yesterday celebrated his 18th birthday by signing a five-year contract with the Premiership contenders while one of his former Brighton team-mates became the subject of a second dispute over transfer fees between the clubs.

The central defender agreed the deal in December but has only now completed the formalities.

He has just been rested by the Villa manager, John Gregory, after playing virtually every game since breaking into the side after Dave Unsworth's move back to Everton, yet there is little doubt that the former Brighton trainee has a promising future in the game.

Barry said: "My feet are firmly on the ground and, although I have various targets for the next 12 months, the first of them is to play week in and week out for Villa. The manager gave me a rest for a couple of games at Christmas and again now, and I am sure he has my best interests at heart and those of the team."

Gregory said: "He has made tremendous progress and is a great prospect, but this was the time to give him a rest."

Villa are confident they will not have to pay Brighton a penny of compensation for the young midfielder Michael Standing as another dispute over the payment of transfer fees appears likely to break out between the two clubs.

The Seagulls are demanding pounds 2.8m from Villa as compensation for coaching the former England schoolboy international until he was 16. Villa claim the 17-year-old was not properly registered by the Third Division side.

Standing has said he was not under contract with Brighton when Villa secured his services at the same time as they signed Barry from the south coast club. He maintains that he signed a one-year deal, which had expired, with Brighton, who in turn insist he was under contract for two years.

Villa have already been ordered by an independent tribunal this season to pay Brighton what could eventually amount to pounds 1m for Barry. That followed a bitter wrangle in which the Brighton chairman, Dick Knight, accused Aston Villa of being "penny-pinching hypocrites".

Gregory responded by claiming: "Dick Knight wouldn't recognise Gareth Barry if he stood on Brighton beach wearing an Albion shirt with a ball under his arm and a seagull on his head."

Now Knight, who is also Standing's uncle, is again attempting to force Villa to part with their money, a claim which the Midlanders are contesting. The Villa company secretary, Steve Stride, said: "We are contending that the player was not properly registered by Brighton and as such they have no claim for compensation."

Standing made his first senior appearance for Villa as a non-playing substitute in the home match against Blackburn two weeks ago.

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