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Last Updated: Friday, 19 August 2005, 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK
Woodgate makes return in juniors
Real Madrid defender Jonathan Woodgate
Jonathan Woodgate moved a step closer to his long-awaited Real Madrid debut after playing 45 minutes against one of the club's youth teams.

The 25-year-old England defender looked at ease in the practice match at Madrid's Las Rozas training ground after a 16-month injury lay-off.

"He looked very good, for the 45 minutes, he did very well," said Real coach Wanderley Luxemburgo.

Woodgate has not played competitively since a 13.4m move from Newcastle.

Although his opponents were aged only 16 or 17, it was Woodgate's first run-out since suffering a relapse of his thigh injury on 7 October last year.

"He has to regain his confidence little by little and then forget the injury he has suffered," Luxembergo said recently.

"Then he can go on to play with the reserves in the second division.

"He has not played for at least 14 or 15 months and that is a long time to be out of action.

"With only two weeks of full training with the first team behind him he cannot play straight away.

Woodgate is going to become one of our most important recruits of the season
Real vice-president Emilio Butragueno
"He has worked hard with the rest of his team-mates but he still has to work on other facets of the game and playing kick-abouts will help him a lot."

Woodgate's last competitive match was for Newcastle against Chelsea in April 2004, when he tore a thigh muscle.

He joined Real in August last year but Luxemburgo is not willing to put a deadline on a possible return to first-team action.

"It is impossible to calculate when Woodgate will be able to play at the top level again," he added. "I'm not an oracle.

"I do have confidence that he will recover and we are going to give him the opportunity to play with us.

"We will let him tell us when he is ready and we will give him time to compete for a place with the other centre-backs and prove that he has recovered."

Real Madrid vice-president Emilio Butragueno believes Woodgate will eventually be an important asset to the club.

"Woodgate is going to surprise a lot of people because he is going to become one of our most important recruits of the season," said Butragueno.

"He has sacrificed a great deal and now is the time for him to get his reward."



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