Game over for Beckham's MLS mission?
There is a school of thought that suggests David Beckham's loan move to AC Milan is the beginning of the end of his MLS mission.
The theory goes that the 33-year-old is ready to turn his back on the Los Angeles Galaxy, despondent at the lack of success after his injury blighted first season and the crushing failure of his second.
Despite protestations from all parties concerned, who have been at pains to stress that the marketing man's dream will return to the United States for pre-season training in March, there are those who believe the loan deal to the San Siro is merely the pre-cursor for a permanent move.
Unlikely? Never going to happen? That's what most people would have said three months before Beckham signed for the Galaxy in 2007. The lesson learnt then is not to underestimate Beckham's ability to surprise.
A permanent move is not beyond the realms of possibility, far from it. In fact by examining the considerations behind such a decision it is possible to make a fairly convincing argument for a permanent move to the Rossoneri being just as attractive, or even more so, than staying with the Galaxy.
Firstly, sporting. The main reason Beckham wanted the Milan loan was to keep fit and active in the MLS closed season in order to be considered for England selection. The simple fact of the matter is that playing in Serie A with players of the calibre boasted by Milan will mean that Beckham is a sharper, better player than he is when playing in the MLS.
And the choice of training with Kaka or Edson Buddle is, with all due respect, a no-brainer. Plus, the reduced travelling while on international duty would also make him a fresher player for both club and country.
Secondly, financial. One of the main reasons people believe Beckham went to the MLS was that extraordinary five-year contract worth up to £125 million. The big misunderstanding around that figure was that it was not a basic salary but also included endorsements. The £125 million figure was a marketing gimmick, something to grab headlines to promote the MLS and Beckham's arrival.
There is nothing to suggest that Beckham, and the wider brand he shares with his wife, can't match that level of income by living in Italy, a country just as fascinated with celebrity and just as willing to pay those in the public eye to endorse products.
Thirdly, familial. Perhaps the only thing counting against a move to Italy fulltime is that neither Beckham, his wife nor children speak the language. But this did not stop a move to Spain. Beckham is a family man, and living away from the UK and his nearest and dearest is one of the main downsides of life in LA. A private jet from Milan could get Beckham back to London in 1 hour 45 minutes. Considerably less arduous than the 10 hours it takes from LA.
All in all Milan does look an attractive proposition. But whether you believe Beckham is ready to turn his back on the MLS depends on why you think he joined the Galaxy in the first place?
Was it an evangelical mission to convert American heretics to the gospel of football, or a fantastic opportunity for brand Beckham to make a lot of money in an untapped market?
In truth it was both, but while fame and fortune can be pursued in Milan, the chance to make a name for himself were Pele failed, the chance to be the player who establishes soccer in the US cannot.
To dismiss this as a genuine goal would be to underestimate the determination of a player, who despite inviting and embracing the trappings of celebrity, remains one of the most dedicated footballers in the game.
In the twilight of his career two goals remain key for Beckham, to fulfil his mission in the US and reach the 2010 World Cup finals. Having proved that living and playing in the US is not a barrier to being selected for England, there is no reason to walk away.