Rivaldo out three weeks

BARCELONA -- Barcelona striker Rivaldo will
be out of action for three weeks after sustaining an injury to
his left knee in Brazil's 2-1 loss to Argentina in a midweek
World Cup qualifier, the club said on Saturday.

The injury means that the inspirational forward will miss
Barca's first three Champions League matches as well as four
Spanish league games.

It is also certain to intensify the controversy about the
demands imposed on players by South America's national teams.

"I feel very sad right now," Rivaldo said on his personal
Web site. "Doctor Richard Pruna (the head of Barcelona's medical
staff) has just told me that I will be sidelined for about 20

"It is the first time in my life that I have been out of
action for so long."

The former World Player of the Year arrived back in
Barcelona on Friday complaining of pain in his knee and was
immediately given a scan.

Club doctors later confirmed that he had twisted a ligament
in his left knee and would be unable to play for up to three

Rivaldo said he had received a blow to his knee in the first
half of the game against Argentina, but that he continued
playing after treatment.

Barcelona's chief of medical staff hinted that this could
have exacerbated the injury, although he said the ligament
damage was not severe.

The news of the injury brought an immediate response from
Barcelona president Joan Gaspart, who has been a frequent critic
of the demands placed on his players by their respective
national sides.

"The situation that exists between the clubs and the
national sides is becoming unsustainable," he told reporters.

"We must find a solution so that we don't have further
situations like this occurring -- it only damages the clubs."

European clubs have become increasingly reluctant to release
South American players, complaining bitterly about the
continent's crowded international calendar.

The South American World Cup qualifying competition involves
teams playing 18 matches over an 18 month period, while the Copa
America is held every two years and lasts nearly three weeks.

Barcelona refused to allow Rivaldo to play in a friendly
against Panama last month because it clashed with their
Champions League qualifier against Wisla Krakow, while German
clubs Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen have also turned down
recent requests to release their players.

Last month AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani said the
club would not be signing any more South American players
because of their international commitments.

"Brazil have 21 games during 2001, which is an unsustainable

"The World Cup qualifiers in South America are almost like a
championship. They might make money from the television rights
but clubs will not sign their players anymore," Galliani said.