David Beckham: Has MLS Helped Keep Him Fit?


No question exists that the quality of football is superior in a high level European league than in Major League Soccer. However, after watching Milan’s David Beckham, who after all is thirty four, perform at a remarkably high level for ninety minutes twice in four days, you have to applaud the value of MLS.

Beckham has been deployed as the right sided forward in Milan Manager Leonardo’s 4-3-3 set up.  The connections he has developed with Ronaldinho, Marco Borriello and Massimo Ambrosini on the training pitch and in game action are beginning to resemble the best of Beckham from Manchester United lore. While Ambrosini will not be confused for Roy Keane and Ronaldinho is not Ryan Giggs, Beckham is showing the same quality and freshness in the attack he did at United.

Leonardo’s tactics have required Beckham to track back and defend more often than he is given credit for, and often times play in a more withdrawn role. However, he’s being kept out wide in a pure winger role, and with the large pitch sizes that characterize Italian football, working in Beckham’s favor; his game is exploding once again.

Beckham’s presence has helped elevate Milan’s performances. Nine goals in two matches against high caliber Serie A opposition speak loudly. With Milan’s Champions League knock out stage tie versus his old club, Manchester United looming on the horizon, the Italian giants look more formidable than any time since winning the Champions League in 2007.

Major League Soccer has given David Beckham a place to remain match fit while putting less tread on his thirty four year old tires than perhaps any top shelf league in Europe would have done. Beckham has also benefited from MLS thanks to the presence of Landon Donovan whose world class moments simulate Beckham’s England team mates and current Milan side. Working with Donovan has allowed Beckham to not lose the skill level he previously demonstrated in his career, while the relative slow pace/lesser technical skill of MLS compared to Europe has limited Beckham’s running and potential exposure to serious injury.

Had Beckham gone to an MLS team without a player of Donovan’s pedigree, it is possible we would have seen an erosion of his skill. But playing with Donovan, and under a manager with international experience like Bruce Arena, has kept the former England captain sharp as a razor.

Fabio Capello was never going to omit Beckham from his England squad if he could help it. Despite all the over analytical pieces in the British press saying, “select Aaron Lennon, or James Milner, instead, etc,” Beckham was always being picked if only for his leadership and experience.

Now Capello may have a reason to play Beckham in South Africa, ahead of the likes of Lennon, Milner, Shaun Wright-Phillips and others.  Given Capello’s history with Beckham, don’t be surprised to see him take the pitch in the World Cup opener against the United States, late in the match as a dead ball/counter attacking specialist.

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About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC.
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8 Responses to David Beckham: Has MLS Helped Keep Him Fit?

  1. Tom says:

    I think you have something here. It’s tricky, to many intense matches where you down, too little erodes your skills.

  2. seamus says:

    2 matches and we’re comparing Beckham 2010 with the 95-98 Beckham?

    Seems a little early to make comparisons.

  3. Steve says:

    But then Landon Donovan comes off the field at the Emirates Stadium and admits in front of a camera that he’s not fit enough to play 90 minutes for Everton. Not sure the argument that “Beckham’s fitness” equals “you have to applaud the value of MLS” holds water. Unless your point is to admit that the value of MLS is as a good off-season training camp for the big leagues in the world.

  4. Fan Of the Game says:

    Errr..perhaps you are right in terms of lack of skill..but I don’t think MLS as “slow pace” at all. And the risk of injury in MLS to HIM is HIGHER than when he played or playing in Europe now.

    And you made a little mistake there – he was not playing 90 minutes twice now but only ONCE – the first game against Genoa he only played 75 minutes. Either way..I think Beckham playing in MLS is not THE factor for him being fit as always..but more because of when he last loaned out to Milan before, he has learnt something as to how to keep himself to stay fit ALL THE TIME from the Milan Lab and Milan doctors. The first time he arrived in Milan having played for A YEAR for LAG/MLS in 2008 – he arrived with HIGHER body fat and looked nowhere near 100% fit in his first game in Dubai. And even in the 2nd game after that..he only played for nearly 80 minutes – and he and Carlos Ancelotti were even shocked that he could stay that long. Only after TWO months of his stay there that his body fat reduced to be around 8% and he felt fitter than ever. Even his play has been increased in quality like he did 10 years before..after nearly TWO months.

    So..I think your theory of playing in MLS has helped keep him fit is not totally right..as he would still be the same even if he played in Europe for the past 6 month/half season. I think what he picked up in Milan’s Lab has helped him keep fit throughout the last season of MLS in 2009, and throughout the 1 month of his rehab in December – thus the reason of why he came back last July looking like a different player than he was in 2008 – more energetic, more passionate, more skillful..more like when he was with Man United or Real Madrid (2004/2005, 2005/2006) and thus helped LAG to reach the final.

    I hope it will be the same when he goes back to MLS this year after the World Cup – more energetic, more skills, more determination to get the Cup after the last failure – whether he won the World Cup or not. But I hope he’ll win it..just to make him more determine to add another cup (MLS) after the World Cup before he retires fully and end this year with full glory!

  5. Fan Of the Game says:

    Oh yeah..totally agree with Steve there. He totally summed up my point! Haha! 😀

  6. Steve says:

    OK – so I might have sounded a little harsh there. I like MLS. I will continue to attend MLS games. I like what MLS is helping to do to soccer in North America. I would love it if MLS was on the same level as the other big leagues in the world. But its not quite yet.

  7. Charles says:

    Come on Kartik, so are you saying MLS is just there for training purposes? Sounds like it. IF he is soooo much better than MLS competition and Landon is the only place he can stay fit and sharp…..why don’t they win ?

    LAG didn’t make the playoffs the last two years, then were just barely better than Chivas, Seattle, Houston in the West this year. Give me a break, he would be better off in Salt Lake where they could teach him how hussle wins games, he already has skills….rewatch MLS Cup from last year for a great example.

  8. bob says:

    shut up he is pro!!!!!!!!!!!

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