David Beckham among top five stars who have raced against time to battle back from injury

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Brazil forward Neymar has suffered a fractured metatarsal and a sprained ankle, Paris Saint-Germain have announced.

The Ligue 1 leaders did not say how long the 26-year-old would be sidelined for but he is now a major doubt for the second-leg of his side’s Champions League last 16 tie with Real Madrid on March 6.

Neymar, who joined PSG for a world-record transfer fee last year, left the field in tears on a stretcher during Sunday night’s Ligue 1 win over rivals Marseille.

He now has a week to prove his fitness ahead of Madrid and here we look at five previous instances where players have been rushed back from injury when not fully fit.

And, a word of warning, there’s a metatarsal theme…

INJURY: Fractured metatarsal
Faced fight to be fit for 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan and South Korea

Most people would be lying if they said they knew what a ‘metatarsal’ was before Becks’ famous injury. The then Manchester United star suffered the break following a late tackle by Deportivo’s Aldo Duscher during their Champions League clash at Old Trafford in April 2002. The timescale for his return was six to eight weeks, making England’s captain touch-and-go to make the tournament. As it was, manager Sven-Goran Eriksson picked him anyway even though he wasn’t fully fit. Beckham played in all of England’s group stage matches, netting a famous penalty against Argentina, but will be remembered for jumping a crucial challenge during the quarter-final exit to Brazil.

Down and out…almost: David Beckham.


INJURY: Fractured metatarsal
Made it for 2006 World Cup but was unfit

A bit of deja vu. The Manchester United front man fractured his metatarsal bone after an innocuous challenge by Chelsea’s Paulo Ferreira at Stamford Bridge back in April 2006. Similarly to Beckham, the anticipated length of time on the injury table was about two months but Rooney pulled up worse. He did make the World Cup but wasn’t fit at all, infuriating his club manager Sir Alex Ferguson in the process. Rooney ended up missing England’s group games and was sent-off during the quarter-final exit to Portugal following a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho.

LONDON - APRIL 29: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United is stretchered off injured during the Barclays Premiership match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on April 29, 2006 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Stretched off: Wayne Rooney leaves the pitch with his World Cup hopes hanging by a thread.

Made it to 2006 World Cup in Germany

The Roma legend almost missed Italy’s 2006 World Cup-winning campaign. In February of that year, he was stretched off during a Serie A fixture with Empoli at the Stadio Olimpico after he fractured his fibula and strained ligaments in his left ankle following a horror tackle. But, despite a lack of match sharpness and over three months on the sidelines, he was selected in Marcello Lippi’s squad. The rest as they say is history as the forward played a part in the Azzurri’s triumph.

ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 19: Francesco Totti of Roma sustains an injury in action during the Serie A match between AS Roma and Empoli at the Stadio Olimpico on February 19, 2005 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by New Press/Getty Images)

In agony: Francesco Totti pictured in February 2006.

Doubt for 2002 FIFA World Cup

France’s two-goal hero from 1998 almost couldn’t partake in his country’s defence of their trophy altogether four years later. The mercurial playmaker broke down after sustaining a small muscle tear in his quadricep during a pre-tournament warm-up match against South Korea. Zidane ended up missing France’s first two matches as Les Bleus failed to progress beyond the Group Stages in an horrendous campaign. France had to take the gamble but the Real Madrid star wasn’t ready.

SUWON, REPUBLIC OF KOREA: French national soccer player Zinedine Zidane holds his head after an injury at the left thigh, 26 May 2002, during the friendly match Korea-France in Suwon, South Korea. AFP PHOTO/ PATRICK HERTZOG (Photo credit should read PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/Getty Images)

Head in hands: Zinedine Zidane was a doubt for the World Cup.

Made it to the Euros and helped Wales reach the semi-finals

You can’t blame the Welshman for fighting tooth and nail to go to Euro 2016 for his country. It was only the second-ever tournament Wales had qualified for and was very much something that doesn’t hadn’t come around often before. However, the Crystal Palace midfielder almost missed out and taking into account the law of averages, he should have done. A challenge with Stoke’s Charlie Adam saw Ledley suffer a hairline fracture of his left fibula on May 7 2016 – just 24 days before Chris Coleman had to name his squad. But, miraculously, he recovered within three weeks and proved his fitness during a five-day training camp in Portugal prior to the event. Wales of course went on to make the semi-finals of the competition.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 07: Joe Ledley of Crystal Palace lays injured during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Stoke City at Selhurst Park on May 7, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images)

Amazing recovery: Joe Ledley.


Tried everything to be fit and skipper England in South Africa but had to accept injury fate

The towering defender was all set to captain England at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa but sustained knee ligament damage in the Three Lions’ first training session after landing. Scans revealed the full extent of the damage, and although he gave himself every chance of overcoming it, the 31-year-old was officially ruled out of what turned out to be another disastrous campaign for Fabio Capello’s men.

England's injured Rio Ferdinand watches as his teammates take part in a training session at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus near Rustenburg on 8 June, 2010, ahead of the 2010 World Cup football tournament in South Africa. AFP PHOTO/PAUL ELLIS (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

A watching brief: An injured Rio Ferdinand in 2010.

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