The real goal in Beckham's Milan move

Martin Rogers
Yahoo! Sports

The spiky comments of Bayern Munich general manager Uli Hoeness will be the last of David Beckham's worries as he prepares for the real start of his AC Milan loan spell.

Beckham and Milan were the target of a humorous, if slightly poisonous, jibe from Hoeness, who expressed his bewilderment at the way the Rossoneri's midseason tour of Dubai had turned into a Becks circus.

"We played football whereas they thought they were on a Hollywood film set," said Hoeness, after Bayern and Milan shared training facilities in the Gulf state. "My job is to run a football club and not to make sure Victoria Beckham has the best suite in the hotel. I cannot understand why Milan accepted these demands."

There is already some concern in Italy at the possibility of Beckham's off-field profile negating any positive impact he could have on the club's injury-stricken midfield.

For Beckham himself, the criticism and skepticism he will undoubtedly receive is inevitable. Instead, he will focus on the primary reason for his temporary switch from the Los Angeles Galaxy – to cling to the last remnants of his England national team career. His fervent desire for international football was a major catalyst behind the loan deal, a move engineered by Beckham that initially caught the Galaxy by surprise.

Over the next two months, England head coach Fabio Capello will be casting a keen eye on Beckham. The Italian has not closed the door on the 33-year-old midfielder, yet he needs some serious convincing that Beckham still has something meaningful to offer to England's World Cup qualifying campaign.

Yahoo! Sports has learned that Capello has a list of four key factors about Beckham's game and will need to be convinced that all four are at appropriate levels before he brings him into camp for the next round of World Cup qualifiers:

• Fitness

• Attitude

• Technique

• Personality

These items are hardly surprising, but their existence shows that even after 107 international appearances Beckham does need to constantly prove himself to the boss.

Capello is an admirer of Beckham, especially the player's drive and spirit, but with a place in South Africa next year at stake, he is in no mood to hand out free caps. He's already been reassured by a report from the Milan medical team that suggests Beckham is in prime condition and could play until he is 40. But the taxing standard of Serie A will provide a far greater test of Beckham's physical levels than Major League Soccer. If he is able to crack into the Milan first team, it will be interesting to see how Beckham copes.

In terms of attitude, there is little doubt that Beckham will desperately want to succeed in Italy. He is a proud man and would consider it a blot on his career record if his time in Milan was considered as little more than a promotional sideshow. Yet if his appearances for Carlo Ancelotti's side are restricted, then it will be interesting to gauge Beckham's reaction and how he deals with the frustration.

The fact Capello is looking closely at Beckham's technique is a key point. Beckham is widely regarded as being one of the most technically-gifted crossers and free-kick takers of recent times, and those skills – built up by an indefatigable work ethic from a young age – should never leave him. Most likely, Capello is just seeking reassurance that Beckham's levels have not dropped while playing against weaker opposition in MLS.

Beckham's personality is one major reason why he has remained so involved with England for as long as he has. Capello is determined to have a professional and disciplined camp and will not allow a return to the more laidback approach under Sven-Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren that allowed players far too much freedom.

There is great potential value in having a senior and respected figure like Beckham around to set a positive example to some of the younger players who are starting to emerge under Capello. Most important of those may be Theo Walcott, who looks certain to be England's long-term future on the right side of midfield. Beckham and the youngster have struck up a surprising friendship, and Capello is understood to be delighted with the way Beckham's insight and experience is rubbing off on Walcott.

Beckham could make his official Serie A debut against Roma on Sunday and admitted that whether he starts or has to settle for a place on the bench will be "an emotional occasion." For Capello, who will be watching intently, emotion and sentiment won't come into play. He is casting an ice-cool and clinical eye over England's most famous player, and he will make the decision whether to extend Beckham's England dream with surgical precision.

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