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Real Madrid on Friday took a £13.4m gamble on the fitness of Jonathan Woodgate and raised their complement of English players to three as Newcastle's centre-half linked up with his international colleagues David Beckham and Michael Owen.
When Newcastle reflect on their business with Real, they may conclude that a £4.4m profit on a player they bought 20 months ago represents far better value than Woodgate ever provided them on the field.
A succession of injuries the latest of which, a thigh strain, was subjected to a rigorous medical test in Madrid on Friday restricted Woodgate to just 28 games since his move from Leeds in January 2003.
Woodgate's elevation to the status of galáctico represents the completion of a stunning turnaround to a troubled career, which looked to be in crisis in March 2000 when he was charged with causing grievous bodily harm and affray following an attack on an Asian student.
Nine months later Woodgate was convicted of affray but cleared of the more serious charge and began the long march to rehabilitation. While the path has rarely been straight and smooth, Woodgate's reputation as a footballer has grown despite his injury record, which cost him places in England's squad for both the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004.
But Woodgate is now at the world's biggest club with Owen and Beckham surely they are destined to become known as the “Three Amigos”, following in the less illustrious footsteps of the trio of Spaniards who signed for Wigan Athletic in 1995. The 24-year-old will be expected to help shore up a shaky defence that undermined Real's challenge in both La Primera Liga and the Champions League last season, and ultimately cost Carlos Queiroz the manager's job at the Bernabéu.
Giving Real a more solid foundation at the back has been the highest priority of Queiroz's successor, José Antonio Camacho, who has already signed Argentine centre-half Walter Samuel and attempted to buy Patrick Vieira. Sir Bobby Robson, Woodgate's manager at Newcastle, believes his former player can make a name for himself in Spain.
“At his best, Jonathan Woodgate is the best centre-half in this country. It's a huge offer. I don't want to lose Jonathan Woodgate, but we have to consider it.” The busy transfer traffic between England and Spain continued with Liverpool's signing of Barcelona midfielder Lu´s Garcia, subject to the player passing a medical. Rafael Ben´tez, who joined Liverpool as manager from Valencia earlier in the summer, hopes to make the £6m Garcia his third Spanish import of the summer following the capture of right-back Josemi and Antonio Nunez, who arrived as part of the deal that took to Owen to Madrid.
Moving the other way is Manchester United striker Diego Forlan, who after two and a half years at Old Trafford on Friday night looked set to sign a five year deal with Villareal.
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