Fowler faces long lay-off with injury

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Robbie Fowler has been told he could miss the first five games of the Premiership season after the injury he suffered during the pre-season friendly against Glentoran.

Robbie Fowler has been told he could miss the first five games of the Premiership season after the injury he suffered during the pre-season friendly against Glentoran.

The Liverpool captain had specialist treatment and a scan on his damaged right ankle yesterday which confirmed he has strained ligaments. The Liverpool manager, Gérard Houllier, said: "The injury was to the same ankle that Robbie has needed to have the two operations on. He is very unlucky and I sympathise with him after what he has been through these past couple of seasons.

"Robbie suffered so much last season with a long list of injury problems and now something like this has happened. He has worked so hard in the summer and at training camp to get fit. It's a big blow."

Fowler has been told he will be out for four to six weeks, and that could see him miss the opening of the Premiership campaign and the first leg of Liverpool's first-round Uefa Cup campaign on 14 September. The league games he is set to miss are against Bradford, Arsenal, Southampton, Aston Villa and West Ham. At least fears that he would need a third operation on the same ankle have been dispelled.

Liverpool claim they have still not received any response from Middlesbrough over their £5.5m bid for Christian Ziege, although it is believed that the Teesside club have been told they cannot legally contest the get-out clause in the defender's contract.

David Beckham's agent, Caroline McAteer, yesterday hinted that Manchester United will have to produce an impressive offer to keep the player at Old Trafford. "David wants to stay. He has been a United supporter all his life. He still has three years left on his contract and he's United through and through. However, it's up to Manchester United. They know how many other clubs want David." Beckham was linked with a move to the Continent this summer, with Milan reportedly offering £40m for him.

United's goalkeeper Mark Bosnich has also pledged his immediate future to the Red Devils after snubbing a one-year loan move to Celtic. "I believe I will become the No 1 goalkeeper again at Manchester United despite the obstacles that are being placed in front of me. I will be at Manchester United for the next three years at least," he said.

The Everton defender Abel Xavier has had his appeal against a nine-month Uefa suspension rejected. The Portuguese international had the ban imposed after his vigorous complaints against the injury-time penalty awarded against him that put France into the final of Euro 2000. The Everton chief executive, Michael Dunford, and Xavier travelled to Geneva in a bid to overturn the ban, claiming it was unfair for a player to be punished at club level for an offence in an international.

Uefa have rejected any change to Xavier's punishment, but did reduce Nuno Gomes' and Paulo Bento's bans by one month to seven and five months respectively. Xavier misses the start of Portugal's World Cup campaign.

The automatic British vice-president on the world governing body Fifa has survived but the stay of execution may last just four years. As expected, the proposal to abolish the assured British representative was withdrawn by the Trinidad Football Association at Fifa's annual congress in Zurich yesterday. Scotland's David Will, who at present holds the post, was absent from the congress recovering from an operation on his spine.