Injury to Beckham might affect debut

Times Staff Writer

David Beckham suffered a potentially serious injury to his right knee Sunday, but the extent of the damage and its possible impact, if any, on his move to Major League Soccer this summer will not be known until after medical tests are performed today.

Beckham, who on Jan. 11 signed a multimillion-dollar contract to play in MLS for the Galaxy, was hurt while playing at home for Real Madrid in a Spanish league game against Getafe.

The injury occurred at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, where Beckham, 31, eventually limped off the field in the second half. The significance was not revealed until after the match, which ended in a 1-1 tie.


Real Madrid Coach Fabio Capello said Beckham and teammate Juan Antonio Reyes would miss Wednesday’s round-of-16 European Champions League game against Bayern Munich in Germany.

Reyes, also injured, was taken off the field on a stretcher. Beckham left under his own power, not that that was necessarily good news.

“It’s certain that they will not play against Bayern,” Capello said. “Reyes’ injury is serious; Beckham’s could be just as significant.

“We’ll have to see what the tests say tomorrow.”

Beckham was hurt when he collided with the advertising signs behind the goal after running to hit a cross into the goal area. The injury was described on the Real Madrid website as possible ligament damage to the right knee.

Beckham tried to run off the injury but could not and had to be substituted.

The injury to the former England national team captain came just a couple of days before England Coach Steve McLaren was scheduled to travel to Munich to watch Beckham play for Real Madrid in the game against Bayern.

McLaren missed the first leg of the series in Spain, where Beckham played well in a 3-2 Real Madrid victory. That performance led to calls for Beckham to be brought back to the national team. Beckham’s 94th and most recent appearance for England was against Portugal in the World Cup quarterfinals last summer.

After that game, he was dropped from the national team when McLaren took over as coach, but his recent form for Real Madrid has prompted some observers to suggest he should again be playing for England.

One of them was former England striker Gary Lineker, who in his column for England’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper said he favored a temporary recall for Beckham in time to help England with its important upcoming European Championship qualifying games.

Once he moves to the Galaxy, however, Lineker said Beckham’s England career should be considered over.

“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. That is what is happening. I know what it is like because I went through it when I moved into Japanese football.

“The standards will be lower and he will be a long way from home. That will definitely be the end for him.”

Galaxy officials were not available Sunday night to comment on Beckham’s injury or what it might mean to his summer move to MLS. Beckham’s contract with Real Madrid ends on June 30 and he is expected to join the Galaxy sometime in July.