Gareth Bale's participation in Wales' World Cup campaign descended into farce on Thursday when the Real Madrid winger was named in Chris Coleman's squad only to be withdrawn half an hour later.
Bale, the world's most expensive footballer, was selected to play in the World Cup qualifiers against Macedonia and Belgium before pulling out after 38 minutes with the thigh injury that is expected to keep him out for at least another two weeks. The embarrassing episode has left Coleman furious.
He accused Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti of pitching the 24 year-old into first-team action too soon. Coleman's frustration has only increased after last month he expressed reservations about Bale's fitness following Wales' 3-0 home defeat to Serbia.
Bale has since played three games for the Spanish club and Coleman clearly believes Madrid have not handled him properly, after abdominal and foot injuries restricted his pre-season. The bizarre events have come at a difficult time for the Wales manager, who has yet to sign a two-year contract with the country bottom of Group A. He was unable to hide his anger at Madrid during a fractious press conference yesterday.
"We have spoken to the doctor and we will be without him, but we said all along it is very tough for him to have had no pre-season and be thrown in at the deep end," Coleman said.
"I would never criticise another manager - Carlo Ancelotti is a brilliant manager - but La Liga football is a different tempo to the Premier League. The Premier League is the fastest so maybe Carlo is thinking Gareth can handle it, he's a super athlete. "But in our last camp he was nowhere near fit. He had a reaction on the morning of the Macedonia game, that is why we used him for only 35 minutes against Serbia last month.
You have to put things in perspective. What has happened to him with the move, he must feel under pressure. He is probably trying too hard to do things that come naturally to him. Physically he is not there, he is not ready and he might not be for some time. "If you don't do a pre-season, no matter how good you are, you always play catch up for the season. This season might be a tough one for him, as good as he is."
Coleman will also head into the potentially decisive double-header without Liverpool's Joe Allen, Celtic's Joe Ledley and Brighton's Andrew Crofts, who are all injured but, like Bale, were also named in the squad list circulated to the media. Bale's absence was widely expected in any case after he missed Madrid's Champions League match against FC Copenhagen on Wednesday night due to a thigh problem and Ancelotti insisted he will need the international break to rest.
"We are not worried, he has not played because of muscle fatigue and it is nothing special," the Italian said. "He is waiting to recover his optimal fitness. He was not at 100 per cent but he will get there because he has 15 days of rest and then will be ready. "He is not happy and that is normal, he wants to play and is eager but it is not a problem. Now we have time to get him into a good physical condition and avoid injuries."