Fountain causes more ripples for Ronaldo

Kieran Daley
Wednesday 02 October 2002 00:00
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While Ronaldo was busy committing an embarrassing gaffe yesterday, his director of football at Real Madrid, Jorge Valdano, admitted that Ronaldo's non-appearance since his transfer from Internazionale is creating problems for both the club and the player.

The injury-plagued Brazilian is still waiting for his first appearance in a white shirt since moving from Internazionale over a month ago. He was expected to appear in last week's Champions' League tie with Genk, only for a muscle injury to delay the event most of Spain has been waiting for.

With Ronaldo missing much of his last three seasons at Inter through injuries, tension is mounting at the Bernabeu, and Valdano said: "Every day that goes by without Ronaldo making his debut makes the climate of worry grow."

The 26-year-old will not be risked in Real's visit to AEK Athens tonight, so he could finally make his first appearance against Alaves on Sunday. And Valdano insists that Madrid have erred on the side of caution.

"He had a slight muscular problem which stopped him training, but now he is fine and looking forward enormously to making his debut," said the sporting director. "He hasn't played for two months and was nervous following the long negotiations that surrounded the move. All this created an atmosphere of tension which was reflected in his physical condition and we had to be cautious."

The player is reportedly at odds with his team-mates with Raul, among others, apparently opposed to the move. However, Valdano insists that the former Barcelona man is in fact fitting in well at the Bernabeu. "Ronaldo is a tribal animal, an animal for the dressing room and he has very warm relations with his companions," he said.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo was at the centre of a mistake on his personal website yesterday. The page shows him heading a ball in front of the statue of Neptune in Madrid – the traditional centre of celebrations for Real's rivals Atletico Madrid.

Real celebrate their victories 200 yards down the road in front of the statue of Cibeles, and his agent, Alexandre Martins, said: "He has asked for it to be changed. The people who run the page weren't aware of what the Neptune fountain means."

By noon yesterday, the picture had been removed and according to the Real president, Florentino Perez, the whole incident had been forgotten. "It's nothing," Perez told reporters. "It's just a little anecdote as far as we're concerned."

Back in Milan, the Inter president, Massimo Moratti, has supported Hector Cuper, the club's coach, who has been the subject of intense scrutiny by the Italian media. "As a coach, Cuper doesn't need defending," Moratti said. "I'll defend him when attacks descend to a personal level."

Inter lead both Serie A and their Champions' League group. But Cuper's managerial style has been questioned after Ronaldo named the Argentine coach as the reason for his decision to move to Real Madrid. In an interview last week, the Brazilian said 60 per cent of Inter's players disliked Cuper. He named his former strike partner Christian Vieri as one of the players who frequently clashed with the coach.

Moratti praised Cuper's restraint during the controversy. "Cuper has responded very well to a difficult moment, with responsibility and professionalism, without sticking the knife in," he said. He shrugged off Vieri's gloomy on-pitch demeanour which has been seized upon as evidence of the striker's discontent.

"Vieri seems to be in a sulk, but that's not the case, I can assure you," he said. Inter host Lyon in the Champions' League at San Siro tonight.

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