England footballer Ashley Cole has received damages from a newspaper after being wrongly linked to reports of a "gay romp" involving players and a DJ.
Ashley Cole is set to line up against Ecuador in the World Cup
Cole was not named in the reports but his lawyer said he had been wrongly identified by insinuation and innuendo.
A partly-obscured photograph of Cole was used and some readers wrongly thought he was involved, the News of the World said in an printed apology.
It will also pay damages to Choice FM DJ Ian Thompson for the same reason.
The newspaper ran articles on February 12 and 19 which included allegations that two unnamed Premiership footballers and a DJ - also unnamed - had taken part in the "romp".
Cole, 25, and Mr Thompson - known as Masterstepz - began legal action against the paper claiming libel, harassment and breach of privacy after the articles appeared.
"Although the photograph was pixellated, some readers have understood Mr Cole to be one of the footballers and Masterstepz to be the DJ concerned," the News of the World said.
"We are happy to make clear that Mr Cole and Masterstepz were not involved in any such activities.
"We apologise to them for any distress caused and we will be paying them each a sum in the way of damages."
Arsenal full-back Cole is engaged to Girls Aloud singer Cheryl Tweedy.
He is expected to get his 50th cap when he lines up for England against Ecuador in the World Cup on Sunday.
The News of the World said it wished him "the very best of luck" for the match.
Internet rumours spread after the original stories were published and they generated much discussion in chatrooms.
The legal proceedings were being viewed by many lawyers as a test of how the libel law dealt with allegations made against unnamed individuals.
Issuing writs, Cole's lawyer Graham Shear said the articles were "false and offensive".
"There is no truth whatever in these allegations", he said.
"Ashley Cole will not tolerate this kind of cowardly journalism or let it go unchallenged.
"It is disgraceful that he should be faced with this kind of unpleasant insinuation and innuendo at a time when he is trying to focus on this summer's World Cup and his forthcoming wedding."