CARSON (AP) — If David Beckham recovers from a torn Achilles’ tendon in six months, he would rejoin Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy in time for the team’s last six regular-season games.
The 34-year-old midfielder had surgery Monday, a day after injuring his foot while on his second loan to Italy’s AC Milan. Dr. Sakari Orava said after operating that Beckham is expected to be out of action for about half a year.
The projected timetable has Beckham returning to play after Los Angeles’ Sept. 11 home game against Columbus, in time for the Sept. 18 home match against D.C. United.
“He is doing well and the operation lasted just under an hour. It went very well,” Dr. Sakari Orava told The Associated Press after the operation at the Mehilainen clinic in Turku, southwestern Finland. “He will have to take it very easy during the next two to three weeks or a month, and then he will continue with a recuperation program slowly. The foot won’t take much strain for two to three months.”
Orava also said it would be “four months to running” and another two months before playing.
Beckham’s spokesman, Simon Oliveira, said the tendon was completely repaired, and he expected the 34-year-old midfielder to play again. “David is expected to make a full recovery,” Oliveira said.
The former England captain was injured in the closing minutes of AC Milan’s 1-0 win over Chievo Verona on Sunday. He was on his second loan to the Italian club from Major League Soccer’s Lox Angeles Galaxy.
Orava said Beckham planned to spend the night at the clinic and likely will leave Finland on Tuesday. A statement from AC Milan said Beckham will remain under observation for a few days.
“Tomorrow, Professor Orava will give his prognosis, and a precise rehabilitation plan will follow,” Milan said.
Using crutches, Beckham hobbled out of a private jet at Turku airport in southwestern Finland and left in a Mercedes. Just minutes later, he arrived at the clinic surrounded by security guards amid cheers from hundreds of fans who had gathered outside the entrance.
“I am upset but (want) to thank everyone for their messages of support,” Beckham said in a statement posted on his personal Web site before his arrival. “I hope to make a swift and full recovery.”
The injury shattered Beckham’s hopes of becoming the first English player to appear in four World Cups and put his future on the national team in doubt. He will miss most of the MLS season.
“Injuries are an unfortunate part of our game and they are even more disappointing when they happen to a player who was so close to realizing his dream of representing his nation at this summer’s World Cup,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said Monday. “David remains an important player for the Galaxy and we look forward to welcoming him back to the club and assisting him in his recovery.”
With only a few minutes remaining in the Chievo game and the score 0-0, Beckham was by himself in the center circle when he took a pass with his left foot, stepped back awkwardly, then stepped forward and started hopping on his right foot with an expression of pain on his face. He reached a hand down to his left heel, then stood up and gestured as if he was breaking a twig in half to show the AC Milan bench he knew the tendon was broken.
Visibly in pain and in tears, Beckham went to the touchline for medical attention.
Orava told the AP the tendon “was totally torn,” not just a small rupture.
Milan’s medical staff consulted with the Galaxy’s medical team, and Milan organizing director Umberto Gandini spoke with Tim Leiweke, president of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the Galaxy.
“It was the player’s decision,” Gandini told the AP on Monday. “It’s the player who decides for his own health, and the player’s decision was to go to Finland where there is a surgeon who specializes in these injuries.”
While Beckham has not been a starter for England in recent matches, he was likely to make the World Cup squad. Beckham was still prized for his free kicks and crosses, especially when England needed second-half goals.
And for many, he is the best-known soccer player in the world, a fashion icon with a celebrity wife, former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham.
The former Manchester United and Real Madrid star has scored 17 goals for England and made 115 appearances, second in England history behind only goalkeeper Peter Shilton’s 125 from 1970-90.
Beckham was England’s captain from November 2000 through the 2006 World Cup.
It was yet another blow for MLS, already facing the threat of a players’ strike ahead of the season opener on March 25. Beckham is the league’s highest-paid player with a $32.5 million, five-year contract — and its biggest draw.