Fail Or Success? David Beckham moments at AC Milan

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“Seeing the positive side of joining Milan.”

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NBCNEWS – David Beckham passed a 12-year period when he completed his first loan at AC Milan. Many people wonder whether the English legend is undergoing a period of failure or vice versa.

When Beckham signed for the LA Galaxy in 2007, it was hard to see the move as anything more than a challenge or a commercial decision.

What is clear is that the long-term Major League Soccer (MLS) project is very attractive to Beckham, who has an entrepreneurial spirit. The best football competition in the United States does not offer much of a football challenge for Beckham. The 31-year-old looks set to retire early.

But, just a year and a half after signing for the Galaxy, the then 33-year-old Beckham is on his way back to Europe.

Not to completely abandon the $250 million Galaxy deal for good, but to join Italian giants AC Milan on loan.

The deal made sense to all involved: the Galaxy could temporarily lower their wage bill, Milan got a star player, and Beckham got the chance to prove his worth to the England national team.

A decade since his first move to Milan (the midfielder will return the following year for a second spell), Beckham’s stay in Italy remains difficult to assess.

Galliani’s Dream Team

At first glance, Beckham’s move to Milan appears to be driven by money, as did Victoria’s husband’s move to the Galaxy.

It was mostly Milan’s fault. When transfer rumors began circulating in December 2008, Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani described the deal in less romantic terms.

“Football today is about full stadiums, sponsors and superstars like Beckham filling them,” Galliani said. “With him, Kaka and Ronaldinho. It would be a dream team.”

Of course, the trio were the dream team for the San Siro ticket booth. But Galliani’s comments don’t say much about what Beckham has to offer on the pitch.

In fact, Milan already has some of the best creative midfielders in the game, including Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf, as well as Brazil’s “dream team”.

Organizing superstars into some sort of tactical sequence is the responsibility of Carlo Ancelotti, who says he is excited to work with “serious athletes” and “great professionals”.

However, it is still unclear how Beckham will fit into the Rossoneri. Understandably, journalists were very interested in pressing him on this issue. “Milan often start a winning cycle by playing a lot of offensive players together,” said Ancelotti. “Everyone needs to sacrifice themselves, but it’s definitely worth a try.”

True to his words, the Italian coach tried it sooner than anyone expected.

Although Beckham did not play a competitive game for two months, he was included in Milan’s starting XI. He made his debut in Rome on 11 January 2009.

Ancelotti put Beckham lined up with Pirlo and Seedorf in midfield. While Ronaldinho and Kaka played in front of them, and promising teenager Alexandre Pato led the line up front.

The match ended 2-2, with Beckham showing a decent performance.

Ancelotti revealed he had picked Beckham earlier than expected “because he showed himself to be a very intelligent, serious and balanced player”.

On January 25, in his third match in Serie A, Beckham scored his first goal in Milan. That goal helped bring Milan’s 4-1 victory over Bologna.

Just three days later, in a home game against Genoa, he scored his second goal. After the 1-1 draw, Ancelotti said Beckham had enjoyed “another great game”.

More importantly, the praise came from another Italian manager, England boss Fabio Capello. “I’m happy with Beckham’s performance,” said Capello. “He seems to be well integrated into the Milan squad.”

If Beckham’s move to Milan is an attempt to woo the England boss (Capello), it looks likely to be a successful plan.

Seeing the Positive Side

To some extent, Beckham’s work in Serie A has been a success. After joining Milan in January 2009, he earned a call-up for five of England’s remaining six World Cup qualifiers.

In December 2009, on the eve of his second loan spell, his place in the national team looked secure. “If he plays well and is fit, I will include him in my squad (for the World Cup finals),” said Capello. “He’s serious, he’s a great professional, and he’s crazy about the World Cup.”

However, in March 2010, the comments became redundant.

Beckham suffered an Achilles tendon injury in the match against Chievo. The incident saw him crash out of the World Cup and end his international career.

Italian football had helped him fit into Capello’s plans to play in the World Cup, but his body had betrayed Beckham.

Injuries are also not the only negative aspect of Beckham’s time with Milan. During his first stint at Milan, Beckham deeply offended LA Galaxy fans by extending the loan beyond the originally proposed duration.

The extension resulted in him missing most of the 2009 MLS season. When he finally returned to the Galaxy in July 2009, he was booed and the target of ridicule from his own fans.

He responded by trying to confront members of the crowd, and relations between fans and players remained strained for some time.

But, while Beckham failed to compete at the 2010 World Cup, the unusual loan move did improve the player’s reputation among more critical football observers.

If the Galaxy switch has hinted at the player’s inevitable drift into things outside of football, Milan’s loan is a genuine attempt to get back into the game.

His motivation is almost unquestionable: the 2009 loan extension was made possible by Beckham paying part of his own salary.

In the end, Beckham didn’t help Milan to an important success — they finished third in Serie A in both of his seasons there — nor did he help himself reach his final World Cup appearance.

Beckham, however, accomplished something worthwhile. By sacrificing vacations and wages to play in a competitive league, Beckham is proving once again that he is still great.

(mochamad rahmatul haq/yul)

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