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12 August 2008 @ 12:54 am
Kewell survives injury scare  

Harry Kewell is confident of shrugging off a shock injury scare to make his UEFA Champions League bow for new club Galatasaray against Steaua Bucharest - but he could miss the first leg of the third-round qualifier on Wednesday (Thursday morning AEST).

The Curse of Kewell - a hex which has haunted Harry for the past six years - appeared to have struck again when a young team-mate lunged into him during a pre-season training session last week.

But it was revealed on Monday that Harry had survived his close encounter of the painful kind and was battling to get over a grade one knee strain in time for the first leg of a match worth A$25 million to the Turkish champions.

Failing that, he will be back for the return seven days later in Romania.

Dismissing fears that Kewell's introduction to Turkish fans would be via the treatment table, his manager Bernie Mandic insisted that the player with limbs more delicate than porcelain was ready and willing to rise to the challenge of life post Liverpool.

And to repay the faith pinned in him by Gala's German coach, former Bayer Leverkusen boss Michael Skibbe.

"It was a little bit of a concern initially but Harry is fine now," he said. "It was a case of a young team-mate being a little over enthusiastic and Harry's knee was a bit sore afterwards but he's recovering well and is on track to play against Steaua Bucharest.

"He could play on Wednesday but if there are any concerns at all, then I'm told he'll be rested until the return game. A decision hasn't been made yet."

Kewell is leaving nothing to chance in his efforts to avoid revisiting the anguish of recent years where he's undergone multiple surgeries and missed a multitude of matches for club and country.

Hence the appointment of former Socceroos physio Les Gelis as his personal fitness guru at Gala.

Gelis will monitor Kewell on a daily basis, preparing him for matches and supervising the on-going maintenance of a body in need of constant hands-on attention.

"It's a case of Harry trying to sort out any problems before they even surface," added Mandic.

"He's settling in really well at Turkey. The team has Turkish internationals and facilities which have to be seen to believed."

They include a school and even a hospital - handy for Harry should, God forbid, he break down again.

Kewell's family - wife Sheree and three children - come and go but have not yet set up a permanent home in Harry's new Ottoman Empire.

"Most of his team-mates speak English and so does the coach so there’s no problems at all in communications."

Mandic revealed that former Socceroos skipper Ned Zelic, a long-time veteran of German football, paved the way for Kewell's surprise switch to Turkey after recommending Skibbe as the right man to help renovate Kewell's club career.

"He basically said that he's a top operator and that he would be good for Harry - and having Les Gelis there 24/7 is also massive for Harry. It gives him a great sense of security."

Mandic insisted that so long as Kewell performs well in the key domestic clashes with bitter foes Besiktas and Fenerbahce, he will win the ardour of the club's fans.

"Those are the games that invariably decide the title and the ones the fans care about most," he insisted.

Mandic also disclosed that some of the clubs who were in the hunt for Harry (three from Italy, two from Spain, three from England and one from Germany) had sought to impose punitive conditions.

"It was ridiculous," he added. "Some of them said if he didn't play 50 percent of games they would terminate the agreement. And if he did, they would extend the contract by two years.

"It was a question of trying to dictate terms and it wasn't realistic."

Mandic also said that Turkey's close proximity to Asia would also make it easier for him to play for his country in the looming final phase of qualifying for the World Cup.

(The World Game)