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David Beckham ends his loan spell with AC Milan with victory

His immediate future includes World Cup qualifying matches with England before his return to Galaxy in mid-July. Management changes for Milan makes the star's future with that team a little uncertain.

June 01, 2009|Grahame L. Jones

David Beckham's Italian sojourn came to an end Sunday when he played the final game of his loan spell with AC Milan, a 2-0 victory over Fiorentina in Florence that secured a place in next season's European Champions League for the club.

Immediately after the match, Coach Carlo Ancelotti announced that he was leaving AC Milan by mutual consent and former Brazilian international and 1994 World Cup winner Leonardo was named the new coach of the Rossoneri.

"This beautiful adventure in Milan is over," said Ancelotti, who took charge of the club in 2001 and led it to Champions League triumphs in 2003 and 2007 and to the Italian title in 2004.

Ancelotti, 49, the Serie A's longest-serving coach, is expected to be named Chelsea's coach, possibly today.

What the change in management will mean to Beckham's future with Milan is uncertain, although he expects to rejoin the team in January after completing the Major League Soccer season with the Galaxy.

During his loan spell, he played in 17 Serie A games for Milan, scoring two goals and assisting on five others, as the club finished in third place behind champion Inter Milan and runner-up Juventus.

Asked about Leonardo, 39, during an interview with The Times, Beckham said: "Obviously, he was a great player. He's been involved in this club for a few years now [most recently as sporting director] and he knows the players inside out. All I know of him is he's a good person and a person who knows everything about the game."

Meanwhile, Beckham's immediate future is clear-cut.

He has been called up by England Coach Fabio Capello for World Cup qualifiers on the road against Kazakhstan on Saturday and at home against Andorra on June 10.

Victory in both of those would leave England very close to qualifying for South Africa in 2010.

"Kazakhstan away is a tough match," Beckham said. "I'm sure it's going to be really warm there. Andorra, I know it sounds cliche, but there are no easy games in football. Again, the goal is to get maximum points from both games, but you never know what can happen."

The Galaxy knows that all too well. It expected Beckham to be gone for only three months, but now it will not get him back until July 11, with his first MLS game in 2009 coming July 16 on the road against the New York Red Bulls.

"I always said that I would be going back to finish the season with the Galaxy," Beckham said. "I never expected to stay for six months. When I first made the decision, it was always for three months. But then obviously being given the chance to play until the end of the season was good.

"I'll get four weeks off [after the England-Andorra game], which obviously I need to get that rest, but I'll still be working throughout that time to keep fit. Then I'll be back into the MLS season with the Galaxy. Then in December I'll have another couple of weeks off and then meet back with, hopefully, Milan."

Even while he is with the Galaxy, Beckham is likely to be called away for England matches, starting with a friendly against the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Aug. 12. England also has qualifiers at home against Croatia on Sept. 9, away against Ukraine on Oct. 10, and at home against Belarus on Oct. 14.

Beckham is determined to play in all four games.

"I think what drives me hard is just playing for England," he said. "That's what keeps me going. Obviously, I'd love to win something with my country, but just being involved in every game that I play in, whether it be a friendly or a qualifier, I love playing for my country.

"So that's what keeps me going. Nothing's guaranteed about me being involved in the World Cup squad in 2010, but hopefully I'm doing the right things to be involved in the games leading up to that, the games that will get us to the World Cup."

Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena had said earlier that he hoped to talk Beckham out of the friendly game against the Dutch, but that seems unlikely, given the quality of the Netherlands team and the fact that it is all but certain of reaching the World Cup.

"You always want to play against the best countries and the best players, but aside from that it's a game for my country and I will never pull out of games for my country," Beckham said.

"It's one thing I've always said about Fabio Capello, whether it's been with Real Madrid or with England, there are no friendlies. He doesn't treat friendlies as friendly games. They're competitive matches which he expects you to perform in. So for me it might say friendly on the TV or in the newspaper, but it's not one."


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