Ronaldo's injury woes continue

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Ronaldo, the Brazilian centre forward, faces four to five months out of the game after an operation on a damaged knee tendon yesterday.

Ronaldo, the Brazilian centre forward, faces four to five months out of the game after an operation on a damaged knee tendon yesterday.

Surgeons were said to have conducted a satisfactory operation on the Internazionale striker in Paris. "Post-operative rehabilitation is expected immediately. A return to competition is not expected for four or five months," a hospital statement said.

Inter said last week they thought their player would need only a maximum of three months to recover. Ronaldo suffered his latest setback in Inter's 6-0 Serie A win over Lecce on 21 November. He twisted his right leg and partially ruptured his knee-cap tendon after catching his foot in a divot on the rain-soaked San Siro pitch. Minutes before limping off he had scored from the penalty spot.

The Brazilian has been hampered by knee problems during hid career (he underwent surgery on his right knee in 1996 when playing for PSV Eindhoven), but particularly over the past two seasons and he has never recaptured the breathtaking form he showed during his first season in Italy in 1997-98.

He was despondent about the latest injury. "I don't know what to say. I only say that I'm incredibly unlucky," he said. "Nothing can go right, not for me, not for Inter. I'm really sorry for our supporters."

Ronaldo played only 11 full matches for Inter last season and has played for 90 minutes in only two of the club's 11 games this season.

The latest injury came only a week after a bizarre argument between his club and country, when Ronaldo travelled across the world to play for the Brazil Under-23 team in a tour of Australia. Inter said they had only released him for one game. When Fifa, football's world governing body, ruled in their favour, Wanderley Luxemburgo, Brazil's coach, took his anger out on the player, saying Ronaldo was no use for one match and sent him back to Italy without kicking a ball.

The Italian football federation launched an investigation yesterday into an allegation that Luca Bucci, the Torino goalkeeper, stubbed a cigarette out in the face of an official from the Serie A side Perugia.

The incident allegedly took place after Sunday's league match between the two sides in Turin, which Perugia won 1-0. "We've opened an inquiry and officials have already been appointed to go to both clubs and find out as much as they can about this accusation," a federation spokesman said.

"They'll then publish their results. I have no idea when that will be as we, like everyone else, only heard about this last night."

Perugia said in a statement issued late on Monday that Bucci, capped three times by Italy, had stubbed a cigarette out in the face of their sporting director, Ermanno Pieroni, following an earlier scuffle in the players' tunnel. Perugia also claimed Pieroni had been kicked during the scuffle.

"Around 45 minutes later, while Pieroni was waiting in the club car park for the players to leave the stadium, he was unexpectedly attacked again by Bucci," the statement said. "[Bucci] approached him with a lighted cigarette and stubbed it out in his face, causing a burn."

A Perugia spokesman said that the club had nothing to add to the statement but welcomed the federation's action. "This will go to the federation's sporting judges and hopefully that will resolve the case," the spokesman said. "It is not the sort of thing which should go to court."

Ill feeling between the two clubs dates to the 1997-98 season, when Perugia beat Torino on penalties in a play-off to clinch promotion to Serie A. Last season, vandals slashed tyres on a Perugia team bus before the Umbrian club's league match at Milan. The Italian media blamed the attack on Torino fans although the culprits were never caught.

Newspapers speculated that the alleged incident at Turin's Delle Alpi stadium on Sunday might be related to a short spell Bucci spent as a Perugia player in early 1997. The 30-year-old left Perugia that year and joined Torino in 1998 and helped them win promotion last season.

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