Beckham – An Englishman abroad

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David Beckham is due in the peninsula in less than a month and with the club suffering from yet another ‘mini-crisis,’ just where will ‘Goldenballs’ fit into Carlo Ancelotti’s team, if he fits at all?

Milan’s Clarence Seedorf recently expressed his doubts as to whether Beckham would even get to pull on the famous red and black by saying: “Training with a club like Milan will definitely improve his game even if it’s only from a training point of view. But I don’t know if he’ll play.”

While Seedorf may have neglected to add “ahead of me” to the end of that statement, it’s easy to agree with his point of view. Beckham trained with Arsenal a year ago without any suggestion that he’d turn out for Arsene Wenger’s men – indeed Wenger scoffed at the mere mention of it – so is he still good enough to earn a place in a Milan side desperately hunting the Scudetto and UEFA Cup double?

Gennaro Gattuso’s injury has created a vacancy in midfield, but at a glance, surely the likes of Seedorf, Andrea Pirlo, Mathieu Flamini, Emerson and Massimo Ambrosini will be ahead of him in the first team queue – and that’s without mentioning talented young Uruguayans Mathias Cardacio and Tabare Viudez waiting in the reserves. With the options open to Carletto, there is a danger of Beckham not getting any playing time at all. Or is there?

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It may be cynical to suggest so, but surely sponsor pressure and mass media interest will prompt at least one glimpse of Beckham in the red and black. Adriano Galliani this week spoke of his hope that the Englishman will “fall in love” with Milan and stay beyond March, although quite what Ancellotti thinks of that is another matter. The Milan Coach has been conspicuous in his absence on the Beckham issue. He surely can’t object to having a footballer of Beckham’s quality hanging around Milanello, but will the presence of football’s most famous face upset the likes of Ronaldinho, Kaka and Andriy Shevchenko? All are used to being the star attraction. Kaka has recently expressed his concerns at playing alongside Ronaldinho, highlighting the delicate balancing act the Coach has to deal with when selecting the first XI.

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While Beckham the footballer has to be admired with his free kicks and crossing skills marking him out as one of the best midfielders over the last ten years, it is ‘Brand Beckham’ that often takes over, forcing its subject directly into the spotlight and leaving others – from Gary Neville to Tom Cruise – desperate to cling on and share in the reflected glory. As a Real Madrid ‘Galactico,’ Beckham, however unwittingly, was part of a celebrity culture that saw Real go trophyless for four years until a La Liga title in 2007. Michael Owen tells of how he knew his time in Madrid was up when he realised that his best friend at the club was the substitute goalkeeper – not exactly part of Beckham’s ‘Galactico gang.’



Perhaps this is too harsh a criticism of the erstwhile England captain – there are after all a massive amount of ex-managers and teammates queuing up to praise the positive contributions he can make to a dressing room.

It is a shame that Beckham didn’t move to Milan when he left Madrid, when he reportedly turned down their advances, along with those of Inter, to live his ‘American dream.’ What he’ll bring to Serie A now may be negligible; he’s only there for 10 weeks after all, but his presence in a Milan squad sure to be fighting for honours could be hugely beneficial.

Milan face testing clashes with Roma, Fiorentina, Lazio and Inter during Beckham’s proposed time there, and should he play any part, or perhaps more to the point, be fit enough to be able to play a part, his big game experience and excellent set piece delivery could make a telling difference.

For now though, we have to wait and see just what impact Beckham will have on Italian football. However long or short his time at Milan is, you can bet that there will never be a camera or two too far away.

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