Gareth Bale's participation in Wales' World Cup campaign descended into farce when the Real Madrid winger was named in Chris Coleman's squad only to be withdrawn half an hour later.
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 boss 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.
"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. If you don't do a pre-season, no matter how good you are, you always play catch-up for the season."
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. (© Daily Telegraph, London)