Beckham tears Achilles' tendon, to miss World Cup and maybe more
SPORTS  |  Mon - March 15, 2010 4:37 pm  |  Article Hits:5509  |  A+ | a-
David Beckham on a litter
David Beckham on a litter
MILAN (AP) -- David Beckham left his hotel on crutches and headed to the airport Monday morning to catch a plane to Finland for surgery on his torn left Achilles' tendon.

The former England captain was injured in the closing minutes of AC Milan's 1-0 win over Chievo Verona on Sunday.

With his hopes of becoming the first English player to appear in four World Cups shattered and his future in international soccer in doubt, Beckham was slated for surgery either later Monday or Tuesday morning with specialist surgeon Dr. Sakari Orava.

Italy's Sky TV reported that Beckham departed Linate airport at about noon Monday.

Beckham has been staying at the Principe di Savoia hotel during his second loan stint with Milan and he exited on crutches Monday, getting into a car with his father for the trip.

Wearing jeans, a white shirt and a hat, Beckham got into the front seat with a bit of difficulty and his father got into the back seat. Beckham's luggage was loaded into a separate car and it was unclear where Beckham will go for rehab immediately after surgery.

Beckham did not respond to questions, never making eye contact with assembled media.

On Sunday, a person familiar with the injury told The Associated Press that "he will miss the World Cup for sure.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement had not been made. The person said it was likely the 34-year-old midfielder will play again.

England coach Fabio Capello agreed.

"We have to wait for the results of the scan, but it looks like he is out of the World Cup," Capello said. "David is a great professional and has worked very hard to be ready for the World Cup, so missing it will be a big blow."

Orava told Finnish broadcaster YLE on Monday that it's not realistic to expect Beckham to be ready just three months after surgery but added that such "miraculous" recoveries have happened before.

Orava said "there's a little glimmer of hope still alive here."

"The doctor said the tendon's a little bit torn but we don't know if it's completely broken or just partially," Orava said. "Very much depends on how much has been torn and exactly where ... It will have a big impact on the final result and when the person is ready to train hard."

With only a few minutes remaining in Sunday's game and the score 0-0, Beckham was by himself in the center circle when he trapped a pass with his left foot, took an awkward step back, then stepped forward and started hopping on his right foot with an expression of pain on his face. He reached a hand down to his left heel, then stood up and gestured as if breaking a twig in half in a gesture to show the AC Milan bench he knew the tendon was broken.

Visibly in pain and in tears, Beckham went to the sideline for medical attention, leaving Milan a man short because all three substitutes had been used.

Milan's medical staff consulted with the Galaxy's medical team, and Milan organizing director Umberto Gandini spoke with Galaxy owner Timothy J. Leiweke, president and CEO of AEG, but it was Beckham who decided to go to Finland.

"It was the player's decision," Gandini told The Associated Press on Monday. "It's the player who decides for his own health, and the player's decision was to go to Finland where there is a surgeon who specializes in these injuries."

Gandini added that no post-surgery plans had been made, but that Beckham's career is not at risk.

"No, I don't think so. I'm not a physician but it's certainly not the first time a footballer has injured his Achilles' tendon, and players have come back and played after those injuries," Gandini said.

While Beckham has not been a starter for England in recent matches, he was likely to make the World Cup roster as a reserve and looked forward to the high-profile June 12 matchup against the United States -- and Los Angeles Galaxy teammate Landon Donovan. Although no longer a top player, Beckham was still prized for his free kicks and crosses, especially when England needed second-half goals.

And for many, he was the most-known soccer player in the world, a fashion icon with a celebrity wife, former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham. A 2002 movie was even named after him, "Bend it Like Beckham."

The former Manchester United and Real Madrid star was on his second loan stint to AC Milan from the Galaxy as he tried to boost his chances of making Capello's 23-man World Cup roster. With no chance to play in the World Cup, his international career is likely over after 17 goals and 115 appearances, second in English history behind only goalkeeper Peter Shilton's 125 matches from 1970-90.

Beckham was England's captain from November 2000 through the 2006 World Cup.

It was yet another blow for Major League Soccer, already facing the threat of a players' strike ahead of the season opener on March 25. Beckham is the league's highest-paid player with a $32.5 million, five-year contract -- and its biggest draw.

"We just received the information about David's unfortunate injury," MLS commissioner Don Garber said. "We wish him a speedy recovery."

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said it was too early to tell exactly how long Beckham, who was due to join Los Angeles after the World Cup, will be out. Arena didn't want to discuss the impact the injury would have on the season. He wouldn't blame the injury on the loan.

"Players get hurt whether they're on loan or not," he said. "Injuries are unfortunately part of the game."

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