Ronaldo joins Beckham in pledge to escape bench at Bernabeu

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The Independent Online

Given the stature of its inhabitants the bench at the Santiago Bernabeu should be made of the finest teak for it is not just David Beckham who occupies it. Alongside him is the multiple World and European Player of the Year, Ronaldo. And he, like Beckham, is not a happy spectator.

"The worst thing about not playing is not having the confidence of the coach and not knowing how to win it back," he said yesterday.

"The coach", Fabio Capello, has scrapped Real's philosophy of all-out attack with a phalanx of galacticos, preferring to field a lone striker, currently Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Since recovering from a post-World Cup knee operation, Ronaldo has played 100 minutes, none from the start, and has failed to score.

"I don't know what the criteria are to win a place in the starting line-up. I am in very good shape, with my weight and everything. What I have to do is to try and prove it," Ronaldo said.

As with Beckham the future of Ronaldo prompts endless speculation. He insisted he would see out his contract, which runs to 2008, then head to either Brazil or the United States. If it is the latter, he may bump into Beckham.

Ronaldo added: "I am a fighter and this is the moment to do battle."

Real, who are third in La Liga, are at home to Celta Vigo tomorrow. Leaders Barcelona visit Deportivo La Coruña tonight while second-placed Seville host Osasuna tomorrow.

In Italy, Palermo made their priorities clear by fielding a weakened team against Newcastle in the Uefa Cup. They will hope to profit against Sampdoria tomorrow. Internazionale, who share the lead with Palermo, host Ascoli.

In Serie B Juventus are now third, just three points adrift of leaders Genoa, following the softening of their points reduction. They travel to Napoli on Monday for the biggest second-tier game in Europe in years.

Off the field a Rome court rejected a request by lawyers representing Giorgio Chinaglia to cancel a custody order for the former Italy, Swansea, Lazio and New York Cosmos striker. An arrest warrant was issued last month for the 59-year-old and eight others on charges of extortion and insider trading at Lazio.

Lyon, the only club from the major leagues unbeaten in all competitions, seek to extend their 11-point lead in France at Rennes today, while Bundesliga leaders Werder Bremen play Energie Cottbus. Second-placed Bayern Munich are at Schalke 04 tomorrow.

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