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Friday, July 17, 2009

Beckham happy to be back at Galaxy - for now

HOBOKEN, N.J. (AP) David Beckham flashed his famous smile and said he was happy to be back in Major League Soccer. What he wouldn't say is how long he'll stay.

News photo
Back in the Galaxy: David Beckham speaks at a news conference in Hoboken, N.J., on Wednesday. AP PHOTO

The 34-year-old midfielder with the ever-changing hair styles returns to the Los Angeles Galaxy for Thursday's game against the lowly New York Red Bulls following a half-season loan to AC Milan.

He's not looking ahead — not quite yet — to playing in next year's World Cup or to another offseason loan. But make no mistake, there's a high likelihood he will quit Rodeo Drive for Via della Spiga again at the end of this season because that's what England manager Fabio Capello suggested.

"The England manager has made it very clear to me," Beckham said. "So I will do everything possible. I'll always regret it if I didn't do everything . . . to give myself a chance to be involved in that."

And this is someone who doesn't easily take advice — and knows it.

"I've been criticized by, you know, Pele before. I've been criticized by George Best before. And these are people that I've respected throughout my career, the people you look up to," Beckham said. "At the end of the day, you know, you hear the criticism but it's about how you deal with it and how it affects you, and it doesn't affect me."

Beckham, runnerup in FIFA player of the year voting in 1999 and 2001 while with Manchester United, joined the Galaxy in July 2007 under a $32.5 million, five-year deal following four seasons as a galactico at Real Madrid.

Slowed by ankle and knee injuries, he played just eight matches for the Galaxy that year with one goal. While healthier last year — he played 25 matches — Los Angeles once again missed the playoffs.

Off the field, he's been a smashing success. MLS says more than 400,000 Beckham Galaxy jerseys have been sold in the past two years. The average attendance for Galaxy games in which he was eligible to play was 28,965, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. That's nearly double MLS' average of 16,770 in 2007 and 16,460 the following year.

But some of the buzz has worn off. The Galaxy drew 66,237 for their 5-4 win at New York two years ago, the largest football crowd at Giants Stadium for a U.S. league game in 27 years. For last year's 2-2 draw, attendance dropped to 46,754.

"If there's any disappointment on anybody's part, it was that for a wide variety of reasons, David wasn't able to achieve the same success on the field for himself and the Galaxy as he was able to achieve for the sport in this country and Major League Soccer off the field," MLS commissioner Don Garber said.

"But this story, this book, isn't fully written yet. We still have this year and hopefully more time left with David. There's still I think a lot more football to be played."

Lucio moves to Inter

MUNICH ( (AP)) Brazil defender Lucio is leaving Bayern Munich for Italian champion Inter Milan, where he will sign a three-year contract.

Bayern agreed Thursday to release Lucio from his contract, which had another year to run, ending weeks of speculation over the 31-year-old's future.

Bayern said both clubs agreed not to disclose the transfer fee for Lucio, who captained the Brazil team that won the Confederations Cup in South Africa.

Lucio said during that tournament that he wanted to play a few more years in Europe but was unsure whether he would remain with Bayern Munich following reported criticism from new coach Louis Van Gaal.

Club president Franz Beckenbauer said that was based on "misunderstandings" and argued that Bayern should keep Lucio, but speculation persisted.

Lucio joined Bayern in 2004 from German rival Bayer Leverkusen.



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