The sight of a tearful David Beckham being carried from the San Siro pitch with a ruptured Achilles prior to the World Cup will have moved many people but the question that will now undoubtedly be posed is whether Beckham will ever grace the highest domestic level again.
When he sustained his injury against Chievo Verona, the inevitable outpour of sentiment and deep sympathy greeted his World Cup absence but cast that aside and you were left to contemplate the cruel veracity that England lost a fringe player.
Beckham, for all the glamour, has perhaps now seen the struggle with the same injury that denied him the dream chance of representing England at four World Cups end his career of top-flight football.
His age and fading powers may mean he will never play for Milan or any big club again and new AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri fears this perception holds great truth.
He said: “I don’t think it’s possible that he will come back. He is recovering from a bad injury and at that age it is difficult to come back.”
Beckham himself admitted he was behind schedule for a return and he would not be able to play again until November at the earliest. This means missing the entire MLS season with LA Galaxy unless they reach the Play-Offs and this has resulted in links to the Premier League.
However, despite his enduring popularity as an ambassador for the English game, Beckham would surely turn down the chance to return to England as a bit-part player for West Ham United leaving English fans to instead revel in the majesty of his prime.
In 265 Premier League games at Manchester United he scored 61 goals, making himself Beckham the hero, Beckham the icon in the process. A move to West Ham United would surely be the wrong move? A name like Beckham’s would attract welcome media attention at Upton Park for new owners David Sullivan and David Gold who are vying for the Olympic Stadium after 2012, as opposed to being for the right footballing reasons.
My deep respect for Beckham as a professional has never diminished through the years and is typified by his display of remarkable fortitude in returning to the England set-up we thought he had left in 2006 but the sentiment from the new AC Milan coach rings true.
Despite this belief, it does not impede a feeling of great sorrow that such an illustrious career was ended within in a split second in a loan spell that was meant to help Beckham not endanger his career.