So AC Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani has assured the world that the loan deal to take David Beckham back to the red half of the San Siro in January is “100% done” and “The only thing missing is the signatures” which simultaneously confirms that he’s lying (let’s face it, unless it’s signed and sealed, it isn’t 100% done) and that David Beckham will almost certainly be part of England’s World Cup squad in South Africa next year.
He’s proven popular as a squad member during Fabio Capello’s time in charge of the three lions but because of the Italian’s reluctance to take a player plying his trade in the sub-European standard MLS to a World Cup there was still a chance that Beckham could miss out. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that a move to Milan was the only way that Beckham could give himself a really good chance of being included – a much talked about Premier League return could actually have harmed his chances.
I’m a big fan of Beckham, you can’t help but admire the man’s commitment to the game and he’s as reliable a professional as you’ll ever see. However, at the age of 34 there’s no one can deny that his legs are going a bit and that a player who was never blessed with much pace – not that you noticed, such was his excellent technique and reading of the game – is now flat-out slow. As such, despite interest from many parties and Tottenham in particular (he’s a midfielder after all) a return to England’s big league could have been disastrous for his World Cup ambition.
The simple fact is that the Premier League is the fastest league in the world. It’s quick, and it’s brutal, and that’s what makes it what it is. The game in this country is played at a punishing tempo that places huge technical and physical demands on the players and that’s why few players remain at their peak in the Premier League beyond the age of 32 or 33. However good you are technically, you reach a point when playing in the Premier League when you just can’t hack it anymore.
As such, if Beckham had decided to have another crack at the Premier League, I think he’d have been severely found out. While doubtless effective from set-pieces as ever, he would not have been able to keep up with the pace of the games and would therefore be seen to perform poorly and, quite possibly, pick up a series of knocks and niggles as his ageing body struggled to cope with the demands of the football.
In Italy though, it’s a different story. The game in the Serie A is generally played at a more pedestrian tempo, with players far more able to put their foot on the ball even in the centre of the park and pick out a pass. For an ageing Beckham, this is perfect, and is why he was such a success in his last spell at the San Siro. There are few players who can match Beckham’s range of passing (perhaps only Andrea Pirlo, also at Milan) and with free rein to indulge those talents, Beckham will rightly draw plaudits, and impress Capello.
What’s more, AC Milan is pretty much the perfect club for any ageing player. It’s no surprise that the average age of their squad is so high – against Real Madrid in the Champions League they started with just three players under the age of 30 – nor that Paulo Maldini famously continued playing into his 40’s for them. The ‘Lab’ at Milan is legendary for its cunning in crafting player specific and highly effective training regimes that really enhance the longevity of a player’s career.
In returning to Milan, Beckham puts himself back in the hands of those renowned coaches and physios and ensures that come June and the World Cup, he’ll be in absolute peak physical condition (barring serious injury of course) and should also be full of confidence having just played half a season in a league where the football suits his playing style down to the ground. In that sense then, the Milan move is perfect for Beckham, and I feel it all bur ensures his place in South Africa.
One important question though, is whether or not it is a good thing for England. Capello has stated he will pick players on form and thus if Beckham does well in Milan he’ll make the squad, but should good form in Serie A edge out players showing good form in the Premier League? Will good performances from Beckham in Milan give a false sense of his effectiveness for the World stage cup kick off in South Africa? After all, I’ve just suggested that if Beckham played in the Premier League from January onwards, he may not make the squad.
I suppose tha answer to this question depends on how you see England lining up and playing at the World Cup. If Capello wants his team to adopt the fierce pace of their Premier League against their international opposition then you may have to doubt the effectiveness that Beckham could bring. However, if you feel that Capello is looking for a mix of pace and technique in his squad then there’s little doubt that still-the-best-striker-of-a-dead-ball-in-the-world can add something to the mix.
The key for me is that few international sides play at the sort of intensity that Premier League teams do. International football is, on the whole, more like the football in Serie A than the football in the Premier League and so I think that Beckham’s inclusion in the squad will be absolutely justified if he is playing well in Milan. I think he provides England with an option off the bench (not from the start), if things aren’t going to plan, he brings a more direct approach and the chance to become a major threat from set-pieces.
Indeed, I think there could very well be a case made to suggest that the Premier League actually gives us a false impression of the effectiveness and quality of certain types of more technical players. The BBC’s Phil Minshull today posted an intriguing blog about the prospects of West Brom’s über-flop from last season Borja Valero who is now making good on his potential in Spain, while Everton’s on loan striker Jo shows flashes of technical brilliance but often appears to be simply too weak to be effective in the Premier League – despite scoring prolifically in Russia before joining Man City for £19m.
For me then, I think that David Beckham’s return to Milan is an all round winner. Milan get a player who will be hugely effective for them and hopefully kickstart their faltering season, Beckham gives himself a really excellent chance to be a part of the England World Cup party and England will have the bonus of being able to call on a fully fit and hopefully in form Beckham, providing them with a very useful weapon for their campaign in South Africa.
Let’s hope then, that Galliani’s bragging about the deal being “100% done” despite “missing signatures” does not backfire on him. Beckham is an excellent professional who I think fully deserves one last shot for glory in South Africa next year, and it’s good to see that a deal has been worked out to give him that chance. I’ll certainly be watching his time in Italy closely, I’ve a feeling that Beckham may have some final Three Lions heroics left in him somewhere, and Milan could bring them out in him.
Have your say:
Will Beckham benefit from his stint in Milan? How about Milan themselves and England? And does the Premier League inhibit some more technically skilled players’ effectiveness? Please leave your thoughts in a comment below…