Beckham has stitches on gashed ankle

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The Independent Football

David Beckham needed four stitches on a gashed ankle as Spanish football returned from its annual mid-winter break on Saturday night. The England captain admitted later that his first taste of a winter break had made it hard for him to get back into the swing of things.

Such sentiments will cut little ice with Arsène Wenger, however. The Arsenal manager said at the weekend that he believes English football will have its own winter break "by next year".

Beckham's injury came during Real Madrid's 1-0 defeat of Murcia 1-0 at the Bernabeu in the Primera Liga, courtesy of an ninth-minute winner from Raul. Beckham was caught by a late challenge from the Murcia defender Rafael Clavero in the closing stages of the match as he fired in a shot. The midfielder got up and took the resulting free-kick but blood could be seen clearly through his sock and Beckham was substituted soon after in the 81st minute.

"I got caught as I was shooting and it started bleeding immediately and I have had to have four stitches," Beckham said. "I don't know if I'll miss the Copa del Rey game with Eibar on Wednesday but we will have to see."

It is likely that he will be spared what could be a daunting trip to the Basque outfit for the two-legged tie that promises to be a mud-bath for the Galacticos after almost incessant rain in the province.

Talking of the winter break, Beckham said: "It's the first time I've ever done it and it's quite hard to be honest. We have come back off the break and we looked a bit tired. Maybe because we scored early it didn't set the tempo of the game right. Our passing wasn't as good as it usually is but it's nothing to worry about.

"It's not a problem. It's quite difficult getting back into it but we've got the three points and that's the most important thing."

Wenger believes the England coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, will ultimately have his way and expects there to be a Premiership recess this time next season.

Eriksson is concerned that the lack of a mid-season break puts England at a disadvantage in major tournaments, with Premiership players more likely to have run out of steam by the start of June than their counterparts in the rest of Europe.

Wenger said: "I think that is what we are going towards, and I think we'll have a winter break next year.

"I feel that Sven is completely determined to get a winter break, which I can understand as it is linked to success for the national team at tournaments and the expectation level is higher now in England. They've won in rugby and people are saying, 'Why can't we do it in football?'."

The Frenchman does not believe that a break should threaten the tradition of playing matches over the Christmas and new year period. "Even for those who are promoting it," he insisted, "it would be a mistake to have it over Christmas."

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