Thursday, October 23, 2008

Beckham to Milan - Escape to victory or a cynical marketing ploy?

When I heard that David Beckham is set to join Milan in January for two months, my first reaction was this was good news for both club and player. I still hold that view. However, not surprisingly the news has received a very mixed reaction from the media; many observers are sceptical of both Milan and Beckham's motives. Some say this is mainly about keeping Beckham's name in the spotlight, others have added that Milan are looking to cash-in on the name of the LA Galaxy star.

No matter what Beckham's detractors say, he remains a huge favourite with many England supporters and rightly so, he didn't deserve to be dropped by former manager Steve McClaren. The decision to axe Beckham was nothing more than a disgraceful publicity stunt. McClaren went pandering to the clowns in the media and they loved him for it, but the fans knew better. What's more, neither Shaun-Wright-Phillips nor Aaron Lennon have been totally convincing while playing for their country in Beckham's absence. Theo Walcott is new on the block and despite his recent goals he has much to prove, he lacks consistency and none of the players mentioned can cross a ball like Beckham.

As for Milan, they've been going backwards for a couple of seasons with their ageing squad; it is partly why they find themselves in the European backwater that is the UEFA Cup. It could be argued that Beckham's move is a bit like that awful 1981 POW football film, "Escape to Victory", or simply "Victory" as it was known in the USA.

The catchphrase for the film was "now is the time for heroes". The cast included Bobby Moore, Osvaldo Ardiles and Pelé. Former Ipswich Town stars Kevin Beattie and Paul Cooper stood-in for actors Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone, hilarious really. To take the analogy further, some of the Victory team members tried to escape at half-time, again a bit like Beckham leaving LA Galaxy at the season end...

While some will pour scorn on my not so serious comparison of Milan and Victory, there is a thread of truth in it as respected Times columnist Gabriele Marcotti has described Milan as 'galácticos lite', following the recent of addition of big stars names who are heading beyond their sell-by date, if somewhat prematurely, I refer to Ronaldo (the fat one) Ronaldinho and now Beckham. According to Marcotti, the arrival of Beckham et al is a part of Silvio Berlusconi's long-term vision to add glitz and glamour to the Milan mix...

Poking fun Milan and Berlusconi aside, you do wonder how well Beckham will fit into the Milan side, if selected. I really hope the Milan move works out well for Beck’s; he did himself no favours when he left United - it was handled very badly by his advisors, at least that is the fans' view of his transfer to Madrid. Since then I for one have mellowed about that episode and I really do wish him well because he has been a true professional. I also hope that Beckham goes to South Africa with England and plays some part in the World Cup Finals.

Beckham is a product of the once fabled, but now largely unproductive Manchester United youth system and like his former team-mates Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs he has been an absolute credit to the game.

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