Woodgate's Real debut put back to next season

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The Independent Online

Real Madrid have claimed that their defender Jonathan Woodgate is unlikely to play again until next season, but they have denied reports that he needs another operation.

Real Madrid have claimed that their defender Jonathan Woodgate is unlikely to play again until next season, but they have denied reports that he needs another operation.

The 25-year-old has been unable to make a first-team appearance since signing for Real from Newcastle United before the start of this season. Real say the England defender does not need further surgery on his long-term thigh problem, although his condition is being "maintained" rather than improved.

"He will not need another operation," a club spokesman said. "There are reports in Spain and England about him needing another operation but we don't know where these rumours have come from. He recently went for his monthly check-up, and the only thing the doctor said to us was that nothing new came out of that."

However, when asked whether Woodgate was making progress, the spokesman added: "The situation is the same. I would say it (his injury) is being maintained."

That would appear to indicate that Woodgate is unlikely to pull on the Madrid shirt until next season.

Woodgate signed for Madrid last summer and, along with close-season addition Walter Samuel, was expected to be part of a new, stubborn defence at the Bernabeu. However, he has had to watch from the sidelines as Real have made it through to the last 16 of the Champions' League, and have moved to second place in the Primera Liga under new coach Wanderley Luxemburgo.

The Spain coach, Luis Aragones, has criticised the Spanish Football Federation's decision to fine him €3,000 [£2,060] for remarks about Arsenal striker Thierry Henry, by saying he did nothing wrong.

"My first reaction is to say that I don't agree with the sanction. I have done nothing wrong and I don't accept the fact that they have based their judgment on my conduct," Aragones said. "I have never done anything like this in my life. At the moment it does not seem fair, but I will study it in more detail at the federation."

The federation cleared Aragones of racism but said the 66-year-old should have acted in a more responsible manner.

The controversy began last October when Aragones was heard in a training session telling the striker Jose Antonio Reyes he was better than "that black shit", referring to the Spaniard's Arsenal team-mate.

Aragones, who apologised for the remark after widespread criticism, said his words were taken out of context and translated incorrectly. "I used the expression 'black shit' when I was talking to Reyes, as a way of saying you are better. It is like a form of motivation. If it had been translated correctly it would have said that Henry was a phenomenon, but it wasn't. Resign? Results will determine whether I continue as national coach or not."

A federation spokesman Alfredo Florez confirmed that Aragones' punishment was related to his public conduct rather than racism. "No one believes Luis is a racist, nor that he had a racist attitude. We punished him because his conduct went against what we believe is publicly acceptable," Florez said. "He occupies an important post as Spain coach and he was wrong when he made his comments in a training session open to the public and press."

Aragones sparked further controversy in November when he defended the comments before a friendly against England. The match in Madrid was marred by racist abuse of England's black players from sections of the crowd.

* The Italian referee Pierluigi Collina looks set to end his career in the summer and take a desk job. Last month Collina celebrated his 45th birthday which means that under existing rules he must retire. Collina will now become the designatore - the man who decides the officials to handle Serie A and Serie B games every week.

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