Chivu ready to return with special headgear

MILAN - Inter Milan defender Cristian Chivu is poised to become one of the first outfield football players to sport headgear in a match after recovering from a fractured skull.

The Romania captain suffered the injury in a clash of heads in a Serie A match on January 6 but is now back in full training and was named in the league leaders' squad on Tuesday for Wednesday's home game with Livorno.

The 29-year-old has been trying out several protective caps supplied by Canterbury, which also provided Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech with a similar rugby-style headguard after the Czech international sustained the same injury in 2006.

"In football it's one of the first examples I can think of," Franco Pasquetti, Canterbury distributor in Italy, told Reuters.

"One of the most famous cases was Cech but he is a goalkeeper."

Football authorities will check on the legality of the headgear once Chivu decides which one to wear but Pasquetti said it would be approved and denied such caps could give a player an advantage when going up to head the ball.

"An issue like this has never arisen in football but there can't be any problems. It's made entirely of rubber, it can't damage other players," he said, aware several players have worn facemasks in matches to protect broken cheekbones.

"The helmet is simply protection, but it's also a psychological and mental aid. The ball when it hits the cap will be softer than the elbow of another player."

Cech was caught up in controversy as Canterbury's logo clashed with Chelsea kitmakers Adidas and Chivu has the same problem with Inter sponsors Nike.

Like Cech, he has removed the logo.

The Romanian has spoken of his desire to play without the headgear but Cech is still wearing his four years on.

The absence of the injured Davide Santon against Livorno makes it more likely Chivu will start at left back although captain Javier Zanetti can also cover the position.

Inter coach Jose Mourinho again excluded striker Mario Balotelli from his squad after discipline problems continued with the 19-year-old.

Balotelli, who has admitted to being an AC Milan fan, was photographed wearing a Milan shirt and the pictures appeared on a top Italian television show.

NEWS: Previews - Sneijder set to miss Livorno match

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