David Beckham’s hopes of playing in a fourth World Cup vanished Sunday when the on-loan Galaxy midfielder tore his left Achilles’ tendon while playing for AC Milan.
Beckham, who turns 35 on May 2, was devastated by the injury, which definitely will rule him out of the June 11-July 11 tournament in South Africa and probably will spell the end of his international career.
He was said to be in tears in the locker room after the match, a 1-0 Serie A victory over Chievo in Milan. Beckham had worked for three years to have a chance to be on England’s World Cup squad, only to have the dream snatched away from him three months shy of the tournament.
Had he been selected, he could have become the first English player to appear in four World Cups.
“As far as the World Cup is concerned, he’s definitely out,” Jean Pierre Meersseman, Milan’s team doctor, told the Times of London.
The injury will sideline the midfielder for five to eight months, according to AC Milan officials, and, depending on his recovery and his mood, could mean that his Major League Soccer career also will come to an end.
Beckham had purposely joined AC Milan on loan in each of the last two seasons to keep alive his World Cup hopes.
Beckham, who left the San Siro stadium on crutches, was scheduled to fly to Turku, Finland, on Monday for surgery. There was no immediate comment from the player or from his spokespeople.
The Galaxy reserved comment until it could learn more about the injury, which occurred in the closing moments of Sunday’s match and caused Beckham to limp toward the sideline before he was carried off the field.
“It’s broken. It’s broken,” he reportedly said of the Achilles’ tendon. The anguish on his face was clear for all to see, and it was a pain shared by his coach and teammates.
“Beckham’s injury makes us feel terrible,” the Associated Press quoted AC Milan Coach Leonardo as saying. “He is an extraordinary guy, and today’s game proves it yet again.
“David understood immediately that he had torn his Achilles’ tendon. When the tendon breaks, everything comes away and the muscle starts to rise. I feel great pity for him. This injury has been a heavy blow for him and for us. Unfortunately, the party is ruined.”
Veteran Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf, who scored Sunday’s winning goal, which brought AC Milan to within one point of first-place Inter Milan, said the team would have to pull together.
“It will mean that we will all need to give everything we have even for those who will not be with us,” Seedorf said.
Defender Ignazio Abate said Beckham was devastated.
“He came into the dressing room and I could see he was in tears,” Abate told the Times of London. “Seeing a man like him in that state really moved me. It’s a sad, sad day.”
Beckham was virtually assured of being named as one of the 23 players England Coach Fabio Capello will take to South Africa. Beckham was not expected to be a starter, but his experience and leadership qualities were being counted on to boost the team, and he could have played a key role off the bench.
As matters stand, it is possible that Beckham could still go to South Africa, not as a player but rather as an ambassador for England’s 2018 World Cup bid.
Beckham has played 115 games for England, 10 shy of the record held by former goalkeeper Peter Shilton. He was not expecting to better that record, but he was expecting to play in the World Cup.
Capello reportedly telephoned Beckham to wish him well, but the coach now must begin considering other options for the right side of the midfield. England opens its World Cup campaign against the U.S. on June 12.
Beckham also was injured before the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, breaking a bone in his right foot. He recovered in time to make the team and to play, but he was not fully fit.
This time, the injury is more serious and there is all but no hope of him making it back onto the field for his national team.
Whether he makes it back onto the field as a Galaxy player remains to be seen.