Milan bide their time on new contract offer for injured Ronaldo

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The Independent Football

Milan have yet to commit to a new contract for the injured Ronaldo after the Brazil striker was ruled out for at least nine months following knee surgery. The 31-year-old's deal runs out in June and, with question marks hanging over his career, the European champions are not guaranteeing him a fresh contract despite expressing the hope that he plays for them again.

Ronaldo underwent surgery on his left knee in Paris on Thursday after being carried off in Wednesday's 1-1 Serie A draw with Livorno, only his sixth appearance in an already injury-plagued season. The three-times World Player of the Year sustained a similar injury while with Internazionale in 2000 but came back to help Brazil win the 2002 World Cup.

"Milan will do everything so that Ronaldo's desire to be a great champion returns," coach Carlo Ancelotti said yesterday, without mentioning a new contract. The Dutch midfielder, Clarence Seedorf, said he feared his team-mate's playing days could be over but Ancelotti said that was premature.

"No one can know if Ronaldo's career is over or not," said the coach. "I can't know and neither can Seedorf. Only Ronaldo can know and he knows what he is up against. It all depends on his desire."

Fifth-placed Milan will hope to put their bid for a top-four spot and Champions League qualification back on track today at Parma after being held by Livorno.

Brazilian pair Kaka and Alexandre Pato are on the mend from their respective knee and ankle problems, but they may be saved for Wednesday's visit to Arsenal in the Champions League. The Parma striker Bernardo Corradi is suspended for Milan's visit.

Inter, who lead Roma by eight points at the top of the table, will be forced to prepare for Tuesday's Champions League trip to Liverpool without their suspended midfielder Patrick Vieira for today's visit of Livorno. His injured midfield colleague Luis Jimenez is also likely to miss out.

In France, Lyons coach Alain Perrin may rest a few valued players, among them Karim Benzema, for today's match at Le Mans, the last outing before the Ligue 1 leaders host Manchester United in the first leg of their Champions League tie on Wednesday.

In Spain, as Barcelona prepare to visit Celtic on Wednesday, their striker Thierry Henry has fended off criticism of his goalscoring prowess compared to his prolific days at Arsenal.

"I'm not used to playing on the wing after spending eight years at Arsenal as a striker. Now I play a different role," he said. "It's the coach who decides the system and I don't have a problem with it." His fellow striker Samuel Eto'o will be rested for the trip to face Real Zaragoza today to allow him to recover from a thigh muscle strain.

Leaders Real Madrid have striker Ruud van Nistelrooy back from injury for today's visit to Real Betis. Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder damaged a rib in training yesterday and was left out. Betis striker Mariano Pavone is looking forward to the challenge of facing goalkeeper Iker Casillas. "The goals appear much smaller when he is in them," said the Argentine.

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