- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 17, 2009

David Beckham is now wearing an AC Milan shirt and once more playing at the highest level of the game in the full glare of the world media.

The twists and turns in Beckham’s career are quite remarkable, and another intriguing one looms: Will the English superstar return to the Los Angeles Galaxy for the season opener against D.C. United on March 22?

The midfielder is receiving positive reviews following his first game for Milan, and already there are cries for his loan to the Italian giants to extend beyond March 9, which is when he’s expected to return to the Galaxy.

Last week, Alexi Lalas, a former general manager of the Galaxy, predicted Beckham wouldn’t return after tasting life with one of the biggest clubs in the world. Lalas likes to stir things up, but Beckham is bound to a long-term contract with MLS and always has kept his word. Beckham promised to return on time, and Galaxy coach Bruce Arena isn’t worried.

“If I was Bruce Arena, I’d prefer him to be resting in the offseason,” Lalas told the BBC’s Radio 5.

But Beckham isn’t used to the MLS offseason, the longest in the world. Arena would much rather have him playing than sitting on a beach in a straw hat.

It wouldn’t be such a terrible thing for the Galaxy if the lawyers do work out a deal to keep Beckham in Milan till the end of the season in mid-May.

What player wouldn’t want to win a title in Serie A? Beckham won silverware with Manchester United and Real Madrid, so don’t count out his commitment to a cause. Milan is third in Serie A, nine points behind leaders Inter Milan.

Beckham started for Milan in Sunday’s 2-2 tie at Roma and surprised with a solid performance for 89 minutes. His coach praised his work ethic. Beckham always has been a true professional, and he’s rarely allowed his fame to affect his game.

The Sun tabloid called on Beckham to “ditch the Yanks” and not return to America.

“How can David Beckham go back to Mickey Mouse football after this?” the paper asked.

But if MLS is so bad, how come Beckham still is in such good shape after two years in the league? In the Milan game, Beckham did what he does in MLS. The only difference is that at Milan he is surrounded by a slew of world-class stars, including Kaka, Alexander Pato, Ronaldinho, Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf.

Beckham’s motive in going to Italy was to remain fit, keep his place on the English national team and hopefully play in the World Cup. He needs one more English team appearance to tie Bobby Moore’s record of 108 games as a field player.

Whatever Beckham decides, this is a good situation for MLS.

If Beckham stays with Milan and plays a prominent role, his aura grows and MLS draws more attention when he returns. There are plenty of Milan fans in the U.S. who will be happy to join Tom Cruise and Will Smith in cheering on Beckham in Los Angeles.

Notes - The amount of money that would change hands if Brazilian midfielder Kaka moves to Manchester City from AC Milan is staggering.

The Dubai-owned English club reportedly is willing to buy Kaka for $146 million, then pay him a weekly salary of $728,000. Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger said Manchester City “is living in another world.” …

Former D.C. United defender Jeff Agoos was elected Thursday to the Soccer Hall of Fame along with two-time world champion Joy Fawcett. …

The Washington Freedom on Friday selected midfielder Allie Long (North Carolina) and defender Alex Singer (Virginia) in the Women’s Professional Soccer Draft. …

Vedad Ibisevic, a striker for TSG 1899 Hoffenheim who also played for Saint Louis University, injured a knee this week and will miss six months. The 24-year-old leads the Bundesliga with 18 goals, helping the German village team to the top of the standings.

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