Heart-wrenching battle for Veron
By Adam Marshall
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Juan Sebastian Veron has declared he will be "playing against his heart" when he takes on Lazio in the UEFA Champions League clash on Wednesday, and the Chelsea star has again refused to rule out a romantic return to Rome at some point in his career.
The elegant Argentinian international stresses he has no problems with coach Claudio Ranieri, and feels he owes the Italian a debt of gratitude, but has always pined for a Stadio Olimpico reunion since quitting Lazio for Manchester United.
"It will be a match with contrasting emotions," he declared. "It will be like playing against my heart.
"I'm happy at Chelsea. I've found a big club and a big squad, but Lazio belong to me for always.
"It's an affection that won't have the power to overcome my professionalism, nor my will and assignment to help Chelsea, but it's clear that this will be a terrible conflict inside for me.
"The only positive aspect is that it won't be a knockout match - the two top teams in the group earn qualification for the Champions League second phase.
"We and Lazio will go forward."
Veron dispelled fears that his ankle injury will keep him out of the eagerly-anticipated encounter at Stamford Bridge.
"I've overcome my injury after working a lot with professor Sassi," he told Corriere dello Sport.
"I haven't got troubles and I'm at Ranieri's disposal for the match with Lazio.
"It's good with Ranieri. I feel his esteem and his consideration.
"I'm sorry that I've been penalised by that ankle injury as I have a big will to return his faith in me.
"He took me to Chelsea. I have a feeling of debt towards him.
"I'm ready but Ranieri will decide whether I'm lining up from the beginning or not against Lazio."
As for the future, Veron was typically ambiguous about any possible return to Serie A.
"My contract with Chelsea will expire in June, 2006," he added. "When I'll be 31.
"The idea of a return is suggestive. When you feel good in a city, when you have had a special feeling with those supporters, there is the will to come back to that ambience.
"In football, everything can happen. It will depend on many factors."