Now that AC Milan’s chance of winning the Italian championship has all but vanished, one question remains:
How much is David Beckham worth to the Serie A club now?
The Times has learned that AC Milan’s initial offer, made 10 days ago, reputedly was for no more than $3 million, whereas AEG, which owns the Galaxy, and Major League Soccer, which holds Beckham’s contract, have been seeking between $10 million and $15 million for the English midfielder.
Gamesmanship has surrounded the tug of war over Beckham’s services, and the injury that Beckham sustained during AC Milan’s 2-1 loss to city rival Inter Milan on Sunday might be nothing more than a part of that.
A grimacing Beckham, 33, limped off the San Siro stadium field in Milan clutching his right hamstring when he was substituted in the game’s 57th minute with his team trailing, 2-0, on goals by Brazil’s Adriano and Serbia’s Dejan Stankovic.
But Beckham did not head to the locker room for treatment. Nor was there any sign of an ice pack or wrap on the affected area. Nor did Beckham don a tracksuit to keep warm.
Instead, he sat on the sideline on a chilly northern Italian night and continued watching as AC Milan suffered its first defeat in the seven games in which he has played while on loan from the Galaxy.
“I was struggling a bit because I got a kick on my calf playing for England on Wednesday” against Spain, Beckham said.
“It didn’t really clear up, and then I got another kick on it tonight. It’s just one of those things.”
Beckham also has been suffering from a cold and was coughing during the match, in which he had little impact.
The loss dropped the Rossoneri 11 points -- or almost four games -- behind defending champion Inter Milan with 14 games remaining, and even Beckham had to admit that the title might be out of reach.
“We’re quite far behind them now and we needed to win the game, but you never know,” he said.
Of more interest to Galaxy fans, however, was Beckham’s comment that he would return only reluctantly to the Galaxy if he is forced to do so.
“I know it will be difficult to go back after everything that’s happened,” he said.
“I’ve said I want to stay at Milan and I haven’t changed my mind, but it’s out of my hands.
“I hope things will go the way I want them to, of course. But if I have to go back, I will be professional, because that’s what I have to do.”
Don Garber, the commissioner of MLS who is on holiday in Spain, had set a deadline of last Friday for AC Milan to improve its offer.
When the Italian club failed to respond, Tim Leiweke, AEG’s chief executive, who spent the weekend skiing in Colorado, said the Galaxy would not accept any late offer and that Beckham would be back in Los Angeles on March 9.
But with third-place AC Milan needing to finish in the top three in order to claim a place in next season’s European Champions League, and with Beckham having played an influential role in his previous starts, Coach Carlo Ancelotti will want to keep him on his roster.
“We’ve still got 20 days to close the deal,” Ancelotti said Saturday. “The Galaxy has forced the situation, but there’s time before March 9.”
But not at $3 million.