Any substance left in Beckham's style?

Martin Rogers
Yahoo! Sports

Hollywood glitz was swapped for Italian class as the David Beckham Show made its latest premiere in Europe's fashion capital.

The streamers and razzmatazz that marked the England midfielder's unveiling as a Los Angeles Galaxy player last year were nowhere to be seen. But this production by AC Milan was just as carefully orchestrated.

As Beckham was officially unveiled as an AC Milan player – for the next two months at least – the trademark smile and wave were on display as the Italian media threw itself headfirst into the frenzy.

The venue was the Milan training ground a day before the club's match against Udinese in the fabled San Siro stadium, but the hubbub, flashbulbs and shouted questions were like something from a shock-and-awe spectacular. It was just another Becks media call.

After this spectacle, no one can suggest Beckham does not matter in Serie A. What will only emerge over time, though, is whether he can have relevance as a player, or simply be a vehicle for the Rossoneri to generate some extra revenue from shirt and ticket sales.

From the moment Beckham touched down at Milan's Linate Airport by private jet Saturday morning, his every move was followed by countless journalists, photographers and television crews. The rights to his opening news conference were the subject of a fierce bidding war, eventually won by Rupert Murdoch's Sky Italia.

Typically, there was nothing brash or outrageous about Beckham's introductory words.

"I don't expect to arrive here and change everything," he said. "It is a great opportunity for me and I hope to have fun.

"It will be difficult to get in the team – it always is at a big club – but I am in better form than was expected of me and I hope to train hard with my new teammates.

"I don't want to upset the balance that is already here – I want to help the team."

Beckham won't play until January and has yet to even undertake a single training session with Milan. However, his influence already looms large.

Friday's Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper devoted just one page to Milan and a separate one solely to Beckham. And that is a purely sporting publication. The tabloids and fashion magazines have gone into overdrive.

When Beckham's loan deal was agreed back in October, it was widely considered as nothing more than a public relations exercise. The skeptical Italian public still views it as one.

"Today, football is not just about skill and tactics," Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani recently said. "It is about television rights, full stadiums and sponsors."

The impact of those factors is already being felt. Milan has been inundated with requests for lucrative friendly matches, and red-and-black shirts with Beckham's name emblazoned on the back have been spotted around the city for weeks. He just might get his wish for serious playing time, too.

Midfielder Gennaro Gattuso, a player with whom Beckham has had a turbulent relationship ever since his first game as England captain in November 2000, recently ruptured knee ligaments and will be out for the rest of the season. With nine other first-team stars suffering from various ailments, head coach Carlo Ancelotti may be left with little choice but to throw Beckham in and see if he still has what it takes at this level.

With big games against tough opponents Roma, Fiorentina and Lazio remaining, AC Milan can ill-afford any more slipups. City rivals Inter went into the weekend's games nine points clear of fourth-placed Milan, which views a return to the Champions League next season as the bare-minimum requirement from this campaign.

Ancelotti is optimistic Beckham can add something to his squad.

"He's a very serious professional and we all welcome him," Ancelotti said. "I am very happy he is here. He can play anywhere across the midfield but the important thing is the way he trains. If he deserves to play, he will play."

Italy will enjoy its dose of Beckham whether he performs well on the field or not. Milan will be happy with its cash flow boost and extra headlines.

But there is one Italian who won't fall for any of the hype. Fabio Capello, the head coach of England's national team, expects to see comprehensive proof that the 33-year-old Beckham is still of international quality.

If he doesn't, then Beckham's Italian Job will have been an exercise in futility.

What to Read Next