Anyone confident in David Beckham’s renowned powers of recovery might be tempted by the odds of 100/1 that he will ever play in a World Cup again – but the injury that he suffered last night has almost certainly ended his international career.
Beckham tore his Achilles tendon whilst playing for AC Milan last night and was carried off the field in tears as the realization dawned on him that his dream of becoming the first England player to appear in four World Cups was over.
It’s a terribly said blow for a man who is hugely patriotic, a fine ambassador for English football and someone so committed to the cause that he had been moonlighting in Milan during LA Galaxy’s off-season, just so that he could make the trip to South Africa.
The Finnish surgeon who will today operate on England’s most capped outfield player has confirmed that there was no chance of his returning to the squad in time for the big one on June, which means that punters who backed him not to be selected in the World Cup squad have been paid out by William Hill at odds of 7/2 – and backing Hills’ 3/1 about Beckham retiring before June is another cracking bet.
But how much is Becks’ injury really a blow to the Three Lions’ chances of lifting the trophy? The fact is that while the right midfielder would have undoubtedly been one of Fabio Capello’s 23 squad players, he wouldn’t have started a single game. He may be box office gold when it comes to the redtops and the celebrity mags but in June, by which time he will be 35, he would have been on the bench for most of the tournament, his footballing prime long behind him.
Beckham could have possibly made a difference as an impact substitute – as he remains one of the best crossers and deliverers of a dead ball in world football – but he is far from being the player that single-handedly dragged England to the World Cup in 2002. His value to the team is reflected by the fact that the odds on Capello’s men clinching the trophy (5/1) have remained unaffected by the injury.
The loss of Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard would have had a far more damaging effect on England’s chances – which are already limited due to their dodgy defence. In fact the fitness of Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand and Glenn Johnson are far more crucial to England’s cause than that of Becks. All three have been out for much of the season with injury and if they fail to recover in time England have no chance of winning – even if they are third favourites.
To win a major football tournament it is crucial to have a strong defence – remember Greece winning the European championships in 2004? Italy winning the World Cup in 2006? Not Beckham, not Gerrard and not even the peerless Rooney can do anything about that brittle back line.
Hopefully, Beckham’s loss will be Adam Johnson’s gain. The Manchester City midfielder scored a cracking goal at the weekend to highlight his immense promise and he will now battle it out with Aaron Lennon (also worryingly injured), Theo Walcott (still raw), Shaun Wright-Phillips (not good enough) and James Milner for the right midfield berth.
So long Becks. It’s a sad ending, and you will be missed, but your absence will have absolutely no bearing on England’s World Cup prospects. Because with or without you we had no chance anyway.
William Hill David Beckham Specials
Beckham to retire before end of World Cup finals: 3/1
Beckham to ever play in another World Cup finals: 100/1
Beckham to play for England again before the end of 2010: 6/1
Beckham to play for England again before the end of 2012: 4/1
Beckham to play for AC Milan during the 2010/11 season: 10/3 yes – 1/5 no
Beckham to announce official retirement from all football:
Before the end of 2010 World Cup (July 12th): 3/1; July 12th – Dec 31st 2011: 7/2; 2011: 3/1; 2012 or later: 6/4