MADRID (Monday, March 5, 2007) -- Major League Soccer executives probably didn't sleep well last night, awaiting tests today to determine the severity of David Beckham's knee injury. Initial reports indicated Beckham damaged his right medial collateral ligament in the second half of yesterday's 1-1 Spanish Primera División home draw with Getafe and he might be sidelined for six weeks.
Beckham's ailment starkly displayed the risk MLS took when it signed Beckham January 11 to a contract to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy, a deal estimated to be worth as much as $250 million, and turned the former English captain into the sole subject of offseason marketing. The entire schedule for the 13-team league was created so Beckham would make at least one appearance in each MLS city and also established one 32-day period in which the Galaxy would play 10 matches, which might be considered too demanding for any player, especially the 31-year-old Beckham who has proved to be injury-prone in his career.
The league's preseason marketing campaign is almost completely wrapped around Beckham, while its teams have also invoked the pop icon's name in an effort to spur ticket sales. Should Beckham miss some or many games, MLS chanced upsetting many fans who purchased tickets with the anticipation of seeing him play.
Beckham's contract with Real Madrid expires June 30 and the plan was for him to join the Galaxy lineup August 1, though there was hope in the Los Angeles club organization and MLS offices in New York that he might be ready for action before that.
Beckham, 31, appeared to injure himself when he mis-hit a cross and then ran into the advertising boards behind the end-line. He stayed in for awhile, trying to run off the injury, before limping off in favor of Antonio Cassano in the 69th minute.
In the first half against Getafe, Beckham rattled the crossbar with a 25-yard drive. He also participated in the build-up that led to Ruud van Nistelrooy's equalizer just before intermission.
MLS could only have hoped Madrid coach Fabio Capello had followed through on his threat to never play Beckham again after he signed his contract with the American league, which will commence its 12th season next month. With Madrid involved in a battle for the league title, as well as still being alive in the European Champions League, Capello came to his senses and Beckham scored a goal in his return to the starting lineup in a 2-1 victory over host Real Sociedad February 10.
Capello said Beckham and teammate Juan Antonio Reyes, who was carried off on a stretcher from the Getafe game, would miss Wednesday's Champions League Round-of-16 visit to Bayern Munich in Germany.
"It's certain that they will not play against Bayern," Capello told the media. "Reyes' injury is serious. Beckham's could be just as significant. We'll have to see what the tests say tomorrow."
England coach Steve McLaren was scheduled to travel to Munich to watch Beckham play for Real Madrid in the game against Bayern. After taking over as manager following last summer's World Cup, McLaren had dropped Beckham from the national team, but was said recently to be considering the former captain, who resigned his post following his 94th international appearance, the loss to Portugal in tiebreaking penalty kicks in the World Cup quarterfinals.
Beckham's recent form with Madrid had led to calls for his return to the national side, including from former England striker Gary Lineker, now a newspaper columnist for the Sunday Telegraph.
"Beckham is a proven international-class player and, while he might have lost some of the sharpness in his legs, if you look at it objectively, he remains one of the top 20 players available to McLaren," Lineker wrote. "Of course, bringing back Beckham. . . could only be considered a short-term fix because, when he moves to the United States in the summer, he is going into semi-retirement. . . The standards will be lower and he will be a long way from home. That will definitely be the end for him."
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