So, I started out this sunny Napoli morning as usual; with a cup of coffee and a copy of La Gazzetta dello Sport, and there on the front page was the headline: Beckham Forever: He's fallen in Love With Milan and Doesn't Want To Return To The USA.
Of course sensational headlines are the norm over here so I had to turn to the three page spread on this topic (that's right, three pages) to find out how much substance there was to it. After all, the only other real news they could talk about was last night's Copa Italia snoozer between Lazio and Torino (especially now that the Kaka transfer spasm is over).
In between snippets of how Beckham is taking Italian lessons must be an indicator he wants to stay (nevermind that understanding his teammates may be the reason) , there were some indications that AC Milan may indeed want to keep him. Club administrator Adriano Galliani made it clear that they see Beckham first as a player, claiming he is "not just a beauty figure."
Rossoneri coach Carlo Ancelotti has been starting Beckham in the team's two league matches so far this year where he has proven he still has the pace, touch, and vision to contribute to the side.
And not only the print media but also Italian television today seems filled with Beckham-mania, with unattributed reports that Beckham is willing to take a pay cut (from his cushy deal with MLS and the LA Galaxy) in order to play for Milan and increase his chances of playing in the 2010 World Cup. Its all laughably ironic because Beckham is the only player for whom a move from MLS to Europe would mean a pay cut (OK, that may apply to one other Galaxy player).
Beckham's loan deal ends in March and his deal with MLS lasts until 2011. He does however have a clause in his contract which would allow him to move elsewhere during the 2010 winter transfer window of 2010 but by then he may be too old, at almost 35.
And while Beckham may be falling in love with Milan, he is also winning fans over both on and off the field. Most recently, he won praise for visiting former AC Milan striker Stefano Borgonovo yesterday at his home. Borgonovo is suffering from the paralyzing illness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and the team stays in close contact with him. Remarking on Beckham's visit, Ancelotti told Gazzetta that "David has a golden heart."
The question remains however, whether Beckham still has a heart for LA and whether new coach Bruce Arena can count on his return at the end of March (along with Landon Donovan, currently on loan to Bayern Munich).
During a time of economic downturn, it may not be a bad move for MLS to unload his massive salary bill, so long as they reinvest some of it in exciting young players who can capture fans' imagination. I'd be happy to see Beckham move on if it improves the league's balance sheet and allows them to bring DaMarcus Beasley back home, keep Donovan in the league, pick up a few youngsters from Boca Juniors and Independiente, and start to pay rookies more than garbage collectors.
Copyright Chris Courtney 2008