On October 23, the news broke that, out of the blue, David Beckham was beginning preliminary talks with Milan about the possibility of a three-month loan switch to the San Siro. In a surprise move, it was designed to cover the barren period between the MLS shutdown and England’s World Cup qualifying campaign reigniting in the spring to ensure Beckham remained match-fit.
What started as an audacious announcement by the powers that be at Milan, soon expounded itself as reality after quick talks with Beckham’s advisors were held earlier this week. The former England captain was indeed heading to Italy in a quest to feed the need for competitive football once the Los Angeles Galaxy season lay dormant until the New Year.
Talk soon turned to whether this meant the end of the Beckham attempts to conquer America, whether Ancelotti would finally land the famed right footer at the third time of trying and where he would fit in among Milan’s indomitable stable of midfielders. After some consternation from those inside the Galaxy, including manager Bruce Arena, it was announced that Beckham would forego the planned tour of Australia to meet up with the Rossoneri on January 7.
So what sparked the sudden leap from an MLS walking advert to serious competition at the top of Serie A? Supposedly under advisement from current England boss Fabio Capello – who had previously coached Beckham when the soft-spoken midfielder had been a Galactico in Madrid – the wheels of the move were set in motion.
Not unpopular with the Italian tactician, despite Beckham being omitted from his first squad, the free-kick specialist has become little more than a warm down replacement for Arsenal sprog-turned-international starlet Theo Walcott. With the irrefutable incisiveness of Walcott’s blistering speed, the demand for Beckham’s high arch crosses has somewhat dwindled.
Add to that the power axis turned selection headache that is Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, the equally speedy but often overlooked Aaron Lennon and David Bentley’s mini-Beckham posturing, the whiles of America has cast Beckham as something of an outsider in Capello’s plans and endangered his chances of boarding the flight to South Africa in two years time.
Without first team football ahead of the Group 6 clashes with Ukraine and Kazakhstan in April, Beckham’s chance of setting more international caps records hung in the balance. Seemingly in the spirit of generating competition for places, Capello and his assistant Franco Baldini put the possibility of housing the merchandise magnet during the winter months to Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani.
After the possibility of securing the Leytonstone lad arose, the gossip mongers soon murmured as to whether the move would see Beckham join the Milanista for three or six months, with the longer option cutting into the 2009 American season and the former being nothing more than a glorified training camp until the end of March – similar to when Beckham retained fitness by training with Arsenal in January 2008.
Despite moves by the former England captain to switch the MLS for Serie A at least temporarily, Beckham was quick to assert that this was not an admission of failure on his American experiment but a short term measure that would not impinge on his five-year, multi-million dollar deal signed with LA Galaxy in July. Beckham’s agent, Simon Oliveira, said: “He will not be joining AC Milan permanently. He had a five-year contract with the Galaxy and has three years left and every intention of fulfilling that.”
Unveiled like the returning Messiah when the Los Angeles club captured the ultimate ‘marquee signing’, Beckham had begun looking for fresh pasture after being left out of the running at Real Madrid, whom he signed for from boyhood club Manchester United in July 2003 after his famous bust up with boot-hurling boss Alex Ferguson over his celebrity exploits.
Beckham, who had turned out for United 263 times in ten years after qualifying as a trainee in 1993, made the move to the Spanish capital amid a furore of media interest in a deal worth 35m Euros. Having opted for Madrid over Milan at this stage, the omens were good for the new number 23 with a flush of assists but a number of petulant sendings off and failure for the Galacticos to land the La Liga in consecutive years titled turned pressure on the high paid performers.
After a clean sweep of managerial staff in July 2006, Madrid boss Fabio Capello expressed his favouritism for Jose Antonio Reyes to hold the right-side of midfield, leaving Beckham out in the cold. Only starting a handful of games led Beckham to begin seeking new pastures away from Madrid early in 2007. However, Beckham capped his final season at Bernabeu with glory Despite Capello’s earlier claims that Beckham had played his last game for the club when an initial deal was struck with LA Galaxy for Beckham’s transfer, the Italian pulled the Englishman in from the reserves to fill the right side of a Madrid midfield trio.
An inspired period of form helped Real scoop the 2006/07 La Liga title by the narrowest margin, beating fierce rivals Barca simply on their head-to-head record to lift the crown. As Beckham limped out of the decisive 3-1 win in Mallorca his four year stint in Spain came to a close.
Having secured the services of Ronaldinho, Mathieu Flamini and, resigning Chelsea flop, Andrei Shevchenko in the summer, Milan are building a powerhouse of world-renowned names and, despite the eerie echoes of the superstar-packed Madrid side that welcomed Beckham in 2003 – the addition of another established star complements Milan’s desire for experienced players.
However, it is hard not to acknowledge that this is an albeit brief stay despite taking in some big games ahead of the MLS season restarting on March 19. Beckham, given fitness, should be available for visits to both Roma and Lazio, as well as one Milanese derby but, with a desire to add to his 117 England caps, helping out the Rossoneri isn’t the sole purpose of Beckham lining up at the San Siro.