Maldini out for two months

Paolo Maldini will miss two months of the season after suffering a knee injury.

Italy and Milan AC today breathed a sigh of relief after doctors revealed that defender Paolo Maldini will only miss two months of the season after injuring his knee during the 1-1 draw with Atalanta BC in Bergamo on Wednesday.

Knee immobilised
In a statement on the club's official website, Milan said that an examination of his left knee showed a slight injury to his collateral ligament. The knee will be immobilised for one month before Maldini spends another four weeks rehabilitating.

Anxious wait
Maldini was substituted in the 25th minute of the Serie A match after suffering the injury in a challenge with Atalanta's Damiano Zenoni. The 33-year-old defender was cautiously optimistic that he had not suffered a serious injury, saying afterwards: "It shouldn't be anything very serious. Although I prefer not to say that too loudly as I don't want to end up disappointed. All I can say at the moment is that I don't feel great pain, although I don't want to delude myself too soon."

World Cup fears
Italy's most-capped player, Maldini is essential to national coach Giovanni Trapattoni's plans for next year's 2002 FIFA World Cup. The left-back admitted his first reaction was fear that the injury might ruin his chances of playing in the competition. "My first thoughts when I was hurt were of Italy and the World Cup. But when I got in the dressing room I noted that the knee was still quite stable," said Maldini.

Understudy injured
Maldini's understudy for Italy, Udinese Calcio defender Valerio Bertotto, suffered cruciate knee-ligament damage last week and is rated doubtful to be fit in time for Italy's trip to the Far East.