Woodgate not likely to play for Real this season

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Jonathan Woodgate will not make a full recovery from the troublesome thigh injury that has marred his time with Real Madrid until the start of next season, according to the doctor who operated on him.

Jonathan Woodgate will not make a full recovery from the troublesome thigh injury that has marred his time with Real Madrid until the start of next season, according to the doctor who operated on him.

Contrary to last week's reports on Real Madrid's official website which stated that the England centre-back could return before the end of the current campaign, Dr Sakari Orava believes that the 2005-2006 season is a more realistic target.

"The muscle is in good condition and I think he could be back playing next season," he said. "Nothing is 100 per cent certain in science, but he is close to returning. He needs three months to return to full competition, but I think that he could be training with the rest of his companions in two months."

Dr Orava was unable to explain exactly why the 25-year-old has taken so long to recover, but hinted that perhaps the desire of the Madrid president, Florentino Perez, to see his £13.4m signing in action as soon as possible had played a part. "There is no one cause, but maybe at times they wanted to go too quickly," he said.

Woodgate has endured a torrid time since his move from Newcastle last summer when he arrived with his thigh injury. He missed the first month of the season but looked to have recovered before suffering a recurrence on 7 October before a practice match.

Real Madrid sent the defender to Cleveland, Ohio, to see the specialist Dr J Bergfeld and he assured the club that no operation was needed, saying Woodgate would be fit "in 10 weeks". However, Woodgate suffered another setback on 25 January and has yet to play for the club.

Woodgate's team-mate Thomas Gravesen is resorting to natural methods to treat his sprained ankle - which could cause him to miss Real's forthcoming game against Villarreal.

The former Everton midfielder rejects all medicines which contain chemical additives and would prefer to miss an important game than break with his principles, according to reports in the Spanish press.

While the injury would normally be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, the Danish international is hoping physiotherapy will be enough to allow him to appear in Saturday's game at the Bernabeu. Gravesen suffered the injury during training last week and missed last Sunday's league match against Levante, which Madrid won 2-0.

Several defenders are also in doubt for Saturday's game because of illness or injury. The centre-back Ivan Helguera is in hospital with acute gastroenteritis, the right-back Michel Salgado has a knee injury, while another centre-back, Francisco Pavon, had major dental surgery this week.

Real are hoping for a fifth straight win to continue a run which has cut Barcelona's lead at the top of the table to six points with six games left.

Real's Portuguese winger Luis Figo said he is reconsidering his international retirement after being dropped by the club. The 32-year-old also hinted at a possible premature departure from Madrid before his contract expires at the end of next season.

"I left the national team because I was tired and wanted to concentrate on playing for my club," he said. "But as I'm not playing at the moment my feelings have changed."

Spain's Anti-violence Commission has made a second appeal for tougher punishment to be taken against the national coach, Luis Aragones, for remarks he made last year about the Arsenal and France striker Thierry Henry.

The Commission said yesterday that it had taken the unanimous decision to appeal to Spain's Sporting Disciplinary Committee regarding the 3,000euro (£2,040) fine given to Aragones after the Spanish Federation upheld the original punishment.

The government-run body said it wanted the coach to be handed a stiffer sanction because it felt that that the Federation had not taken into account that the 66-year-old's behaviour "could be deemed to be racist or xenophobic" rather than merely "contrary to the good order of the sport."

Aragones had been fined for his comments about Henry when speaking to the player's Arsenal team-mate Jose Antonio Reyes during a training session before a World Cup qualifier against Belgium in October.

The Anti-violence Commission also said that it would be launching an investigation into incidents that took place during last weekend's league games between Atletico Madrid and Espanyol and Levante and Real Madrid.

Espanyol's Cameroon international goalkeeper Carlos Kameni had a banana thrown at him by an Atletico fan, while in the match against Levante, a group of Real Madrid fans were reported by the referee for racist chanting directed at the opposition players Edwin Congo and Felix Ettien.