Soccer

Ancelotti defends Beckham from criticism

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PARIS (AP)

Paris Saint-Germain coach Carlo Ancelotti has hit back at criticism of David Beckham and said the former England midfielder will ''definitely start'' against Barcelona in the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinals.

Beckham started his first Champions League match in three years on Tuesday, and was removed with 20 minutes left before PSG twice came back to earn a 2-2 draw.

The 37-year-old Beckham was given harsh reviews by some French media.

''It's not normal and unjust,'' Ancelotti said. ''He had a really good match, he followed exactly what I told him to do. He had to play quickly, get the ball up front and changed the game. I don't understand the criticism.''

Beckham joined PSG in January for five months after his contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy expired.

Cynics have said Beckham was signed by PSG mainly to sell jerseys and raise its profile outside France, with some speculating Ancelotti was told to start the former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder against Barcelona.

''I've had a lot of experience with these type of comments. It happened to me at AC Milan several times,'' Ancelotti said. ''People have to understand that you can't force a coach to use a player. Presidents are very intelligent. In any case, with the ones I've had - (Silvio) Berlusconi, (Roman) Abramovich, Nasser (Al-Khelaifi) - it's never happened with me.

''I started coaching in 1995 and I've never been sacked mid-season. That means that I've never had pressure to use a player, because if I had I would have gone home or gone on holiday. It annoys me that people can think that.''

Ancelotti already knows how he'll use Beckham at the Nou Camp on Wednesday.

''He will definitely start the return match,'' Ancelotti said. ''The aim is to put out a team that can win the match. I'm not a Beckham supporter, nor a friend of Beckham. I try to be objective.

''Sometimes players don't play because they haven't been training well. Beckham deserves to be on the pitch even if he is 37. I am very calm and very relaxed.''

Ancelotti has been linked with a switch to Real Madrid in the offseason, with Jose Mourinho moving the other way.

''The most important thing at the moment is to win the league, to do everything we can,'' Ancelotti said. ''And afterwards, at the end of the season, it will be important to talk with the club. If everyone is happy there's no problem.

''I know I want to stay. If everyone is happy, I'll stay.''



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