David Beckham set alarm bells ringing for England's critical European Championship qualifier in Istanbul in a fortnight when he had to sit out Real Madrid's training session yesterday as a result of a foot injury suffered during Saturday evening's 2-0 defeat in Valencia.
The England captain played the full 90 minutes at the Mestalla stadium but was clearly in some discomfort when he appeared at a press conference at Real's Las Rozas training complex yesterday.
Club doctors said that Beckham had acute inflammation of the sole of his right foot and would require physiotherapy and rest for an unspecified period. He sustained the damage when he landed heavily on his right foot after the studs of his left boot caught in the turf as he took a free-kick late in the game.
Beckham fears he will miss Wednesday's Champions' League match against Porto in Portugal and admitted he is unsure even about whether he will recover in time for England's vital Group Seven match on 11 October.
"It's hard to tell because it's the first day after the game," he said. "It's hurting at the moment and we'll have to wait and see. But I really don't know about the England game.
"I'm not sure if I'll be fit for Wednesday, that's up to the doctors and me to decide. I've got a couple of days to recover - I hope it will be OK but I'm not sure.
"Turkey is two weeks away and we have got a lot of important games before then. I'll concentrate on them first before worrying about Turkey." After the Porto trip, Madrid have a fixture against Espanyol in the Primera Liga next Sunday.
Beckham was struggling with a groin injury before the Euro 2004 qualifiers against Macedonia and Liechtenstein, but recovered to play and the England coach Sven Goran Eriksson will hope his captain is strong enough to overcome this setback. England lead Turkey by a point, but need to earn at least a draw to win their group and qualify automatically for next year's finals, avoiding the uncertainty of a play-off.
Beckham, who joined Real from Manchester United in June, has made an impressive start for the Spanish champions and has looked particularly at home in his new central midfield role, so much so that he made a thinly disguised hint yesterday that he would like to occupy a similar position in Eriksson's tactical thinking.
"I've enjoyed playing in the middle for Madrid and I hope to stay there," he said. "But you'll have to ask Mr Eriksson [about England]. I've enjoyed playing in the middle for Real Madrid and hopefully I'll carry on in that position.
"For the national team I play a more right-sided role and that's fine by me. If I move in to the middle that's great, but for the moment I'm happy just to be playing and enjoying it."
Gossip continues to bubble, meanwhile, about Beckham's private life amid reports that his wife, Victoria, is unwilling to move to Madrid, leaving the player to face a lonely existence living in a hotel suite.
Rumours of a rift in the couple's marriage were not helped yesterday when pictures of Beckham chatting to a girl in a Madrid nightclub appeared in an English Sunday newspaper, complete with analysis of the pair's body language taken from nine minutes of a clubgoer's videotape.
His Spanish-speaking personal assistant, Rebecca Loos, was asked if she was the girl in the pictures, but replied: "I'm a PA for David and Victoria but I'm not allowed to speak to journalists."
Beckham did not deny his presence in the club, after the game against Malaga last weekend, explaining that he was merely trying to wind down."I always sleep poorly after any game because I'm so hyped up," he said. "Last night [after the Valencia match] I didn't get to sleep until six o'clock."
Valencia took advantage of a woeful performance from Real to go to the top of the table. The 2002 champions came at Real with all guns blazing and were rewarded with an early goal from Mista, a former Real player.
The home side reverted to a more defensive approach but failed to make any headway, with Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and Beckham suffering a collective off-day. Valencia soaked up pressure and hit Real on the break, their second goal arriving after 71 minutes through Oliveira.