MILAN - David Beckham is taking a big risk by extending his Milan loan deal until June before returning to the Los Angeles Galaxy and then potentially coming back to Italy in November. The discontinuity could leave the 33-year-old midfielder's first team place at Milan in the balance and threaten his desire to play in a fourth World Cup with England in 2010 - his main reason for coming back to Europe originally. AC Milan have again floundered this season despite Beckham's good form and his "timeshare" agreement with Galaxy will hardly help the Rossoneri reverse their decline. Beckham's most immediate concern is helping Milan salvage something from another difficult season. After two months on loan at the San Siro, he knows that problems abound. Third-placed Milan, a disappointing fifth in the league last term, are virtually out of this season's title race and were also knocked out of the UEFA Cup. Amid flashes of brilliance, which often came from Beckham in the early weeks before a slight dip in his own form, the Rossoneri have shown the same inconsistent form which hampered them so badly last year. Kaka and Ronaldinho are not as fluent as they once were while the ageing defence is shaky and inspirational 40-year-old captain Paolo Maldini retires in May. Coach Carlo Ancelotti could face the sack at the end of the campaign if they fail to finish third and whatever happens, next season could be just as tough for the 2007 European champions. Losing Beckham for the start of next term, after they failed to buy him outright, will mess up Ancelotti's plans for winning Serie A for the first time since 2004. "Beckham has given a new push to the team in terms of quality and enthusiasm. He has given the team something extra and certainly it makes it easier to win the scudetto," Ancelotti told reporters. GATTUSO THREAT The return of Gennaro Gattuso in particular could cause problems for the Englishman and Milan. Tough tackler Gattuso is a Rossoneri talisman and would not take too kindly to being kept out of the side by Beckham once his long-term knee injury heals towards the end of the season. If he regains his place when Beckham heads off, he will not relinquish it without a fight if the midfielder returns. It is not obvious to see how the two right footers could play together in Ancelotti's three-man midfield. Gattuso could be just one of Beckham's worries. Playing for Milan and Galaxy without a proper break could leave him tired in the run-up to the World Cup in South Africa, should England reach them. The reaction of Galaxy fans to his short return will also be interesting after he made it clear he had become quickly disillusioned with U.S. soccer having joined from Real Madrid in 2007 in a bid to spread the game there. The world's most marketable player did not want to go back at all but Galaxy have fought hard to make sure they get a bit more back on their reported $250 million five-year investment. At least Beckham has never been scared of a challenge. Equalling Bobby Moore's England outfield appearance record of 108 in last month's 2-0 defeat in Spain is a mark of his determination after his international career had seemed all but over. He also took a risk in leaving Manchester United for Real in 2003 but became a rare of example of an English player succeeding abroard. His bright start to his Milan career also confounded the doubters and he will now have to do it all over again.
8 March 2009
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