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AEG and AC Milan set for Beckham showdown
by Ridge Mahoney, February 23rd, 2009 8:30PM



At a family function - the xxth birthday of my mom's best friend, I am forbidden to supply specifics - over the weekend I got a few questions to the effect of, "So, what are you writing about in the soccer world?"

To which I responded, "What else?" The saga of David Beckham in America, now more than two years old, just won't go away as the Galaxy stubbornly tries to avoid not only financial losses, but public embarrassment.

One might argue it's way too late for that, with the horse not only having escaped the barn but now frolicking in someone else's stable and tearing it up on foreign racetracks, yet the sniping continues.

Nobody wants to be all-Beckham, all the time, but this week will come resolution, one way or another, regarding his loan/transfer/fiasco.

AC Milan sporting director Umberto Gandini, who elected not to come across the Atlantic last week as was reported in this column and other places, may indeed travel Tuesday as has also been reported by several outlets. On the discussion table will not only be the fate of David Beckham, but the prospect of Milan playing perhaps two games in America as part of a settlement agreement.

One of them might be the MLS All-Star Game in Salt Lake City July 29, the other is a possible Milanese derby in Chicago a few days prior. What of those rumors and reports regarding not AC Milan but archrival Inter filling the All-Star date? Read on.

Inter Milan is headed to the United States at about that time, and according to a source involved in the pending arrangements, Inter will be based in Los Angeles and play Club America of Mexico at the Los Angeles Coliseum July 19, then travel east to play AC Milan. This tentative itinerary has Inter arriving in LA July 12 and leaving the U.S. two weeks later, which would rule out an All-Star appearance.

According to the source, Inter head coach Jose Mourinho greatly enjoyed training at UCLA and other sites while as coach of Chelsea, which spent part of its summer preseason training in the United States in 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007. Chelsea lost to the MLS All-Stars, 1-0, on Aug. 5, 2006, at Toyota Park to a stunning Dwayne DeRosario strike.

Inter is not the only possible foreign team to be linked to the All-Star Game. RSL has a working partnership with Real Madrid, and last year MLS entered into a five-year strategic partnership with Barcelona.

What about the connection between MLS and London Premier League clubs? Fulham (2003) and West Ham United (2008) as well as Chelsea have played in past All-Star Games. Former MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis is CEO of Arsenal, which is partially owned by Colorado operator-investor Stan Kroenke.

So how about Tottenham? Queen's Park Rangers? Watford? The sky's the limit.

A two-game visit by AC Milan might help offset losses AEG president Tim Leiweke claims the Galaxy will suffer in season-ticket sales, sponsorship deals, barnstorming revenue, and other income if Beckham leaves after two years instead of five.

By bailing, in the eyes of AEG, Beckham is reneging on his commitment to radically transform not just American soccer, per se, but the AEG balance sheet. Yet holding AC Milan liable for mismanagement is hardly sporting of AEG.

Had AEG fulfilled its own commitment, not only to Beckham but its fans, to field a decent soccer team in which Beckham and Landon Donovan could flourish rather be chafed by frustration, maybe it wouldn't be in this mess in the first place.  Leiweke also got tangled up last week when he stated, "our transfer window is closed."

Now, the U.S. transfer window doesn't close until April 15, so perhaps he meant the MLS-imposed "deadline" of Feb. 13, but still ...

Many pieces have to fall into place if AC Milan and AEG are to swing a deal regarding Beckham, and clubs around the league, as well as fans in Los Angeles, are waiting intently.

Supposedly the loan expires March 8, but there's an earlier deadline to be reckoned with: the March 2 salary-cap and roster compliance date.

If Beckham's salary - the Designated Player hit on a team's salary budget is $415,000 in 2009 - is to be off the Galaxy's books this season, surely head coach Bruce Arena will want to know ASAP. So will the opposition.

1 comment
  1. Mark Walker
    commented on: February 24, 2009 at 8:39 a.m.
    You know, for all of the noise about Beckham and the Galaxy, one of the greatest moments I've experienced in futbol was Chris Klein's spectacular chilena to equalize in the closing minutes of the 2008 SuperLiga finals. Sure, Donovan botched the penalty kick, ruining the storybook ending. But, it was an incredible moment against one of the best teams (Pachuca) in the region, with Beckham sitting on the sideline. And, that's the point. Here's a guy who is the bread and butter of the MLS delivering exactly what the league needs. My season ticket renewals are dedicated to guys like Chris Klein, and the Galaxy need to figure that out. It's the heart that fills the seats, even more than the big names and the silverware.

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