It was pretty clear from the outset of David Beckham’s return to Milan at the start of the month that he was still in Fabio Capello’s plans. The England manager was in the stands as the Rossoneri beat Genoa 5-2 in the 34 year old midfielder’s first game back in Italy. The former captain lasted a surprising 75 minutes as he played on the right of an attacking front three, and provided two excellent chances for striker Marco Borriello, as well as nearly scoring himself during the first half. Beckham himself was surprised by his inclusion in the starting line up, considering he hadn’t played for over a month after playing for LA Galaxy in the MLS play-offs:
I didn’t expect to start, but obviously with the injuries we got during the week, I had to. I was happy with the game and happy with the win and it’s just great to be back. It felt great.
Injuries to Andrea Pirlo, Pato, Clarence Seedorf and Gianluca Zambrotta made starting Beckham a necessity and Milan manager Leonardo had been training the player in nearly every attacking position where uncertainty lay over the fitness of one of his players. Beckham’s first loan move to Milan last year was seen as a marketing ploy by many in Italy but this year he has been universally welcomed, and he was applauded off after 75 minutes in his return game. Let’s not forget why Beckham is in Milan though, he needs top level football to convince Fabio Capello that he is capable of playing in another World Cup.
The presence of Capello at his first game was certainly promising for the England midfielder and the fact that he has started both games so far on his return to Milan means signs are looking promising for a successful six month loan spell. After playing well in the 5-2 win over Genoa, he had a slightly quieter game against Juventus in Milan’s 3-0 win, but it didn’t stop him assisting the third goal, providing the ball for Ronaldinho to complete a convincing victory over the Old Lady.
Beckham will hope to continue his promising start but it will not be easy for the Englishman to stay in the team. Pato and Clarence Seedorf will want their places back in the starting eleven on their return from injuries and it is more likely than not that Beckham will be used as a squad player during his six months. Beckham is aware that this could be the case:
I don’t expect to start games – I just want to be part of the team. My experience with the club was so special for six months. I missed the team, the players, the fans … It was one of the best six months of my career.
Will substitute appearances however be enough for Beckham to be on the plane to South Africa? On initial evidence, I think it might. Capello’s presence at Beckham’s first game shows clearly that the player is still in the thoughts of the England manager. Beckham’s fitness maybe the primary issue the Italian is looking at while the midfielder plays in Italy for Capello already knows the capabilities of the player. His determination to return from exile during his final season at Madrid, obviously is still fresh in the mind of the England manager and it will be this desire, along with his experience, which might determine Beckham’s place in the World Cup squad.
There are only two places on the right wing available in the squad, and contenders will have to shape up in the second half of the season if they want to be included. Aaron Lennon seems to be in prime position for one of the places, and players such as Theo Walcott and Shaun Wright-Phillips will have to show very good form as the season draws to a close. The lack of starts for Milan may not in the long run sway Capello’s thinking on Beckham and the England manager may just pick the former England captain ahead of one the other players, just because he banks on him to do a reliable job coming on as sub during the World Cup. You can’t buy experience and Capello is fully aware that Beckham has it in abundance.