David Beckham believes he is ready for the challenge of trying to win a place in the AC Milan team.
The England midfielder will rejoin Milan on loan next month having helped the Los Angeles Galaxy to the MLS Cup final on Sunday night. Beckham's hopes of winning a league title in a third different country following his successes with Manchester United and Real Madrid were ended by Real Salt Lake in a penalty shoot-out in front of 46,011 fans at Qwest Field.
Now the 34-year-old will turn his attentions back to Europe and a run of games in Serie A, which he hopes will earn him a place in Fabio Capello's England squad for next summer's FIFA World Cup™ finals in South Africa. Having impressed former AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti last January when he joined on loan for the first time, ostensibly to train with the club during the MLS off-season, Beckham must now make a similar impact on new coach Leonardo when he arrives in Italy on 28 December.
"It was a challenge the last time I went there," Beckham said. "People said that I would only be playing one or two games and I ended up playing every one apart from one. It's a challenge to get into any team like that with players like that but I'm going there to work hard with the team and hopefully I can play some part. I want to be part of the team and enjoy it, just as I did last time."
Beckham must prove his fitness to Leonardo, with whom he has been in contact, having finished the season in the US with an ankle injury. He needed three pain-killing injections to play with a bruised right ankle bone on Sunday but said the problem just required rest.
"It's just rest. It's the end of the season now and, after trying to get it ready (for the final), I just have to rest it as much as possible. I'll have rehabilitation and just give it rest because it's been like this for a few weeks. At the end of December I'll be going to Milan and starting training so hopefully it's going to be all right by then."
While Beckham struggled with his fitness he did complete 120 minutes for the second time in nine days, the Galaxy having also been taken to extra time in the previous play-off round against Houston Dynamo. He also converted the first penalty kick of the shoot-out, which ended in a sudden-death defeat when striker Edson Buddle missed from the spot and Real's Robbie Russell sealed the title with the next kick.
Galaxy captain Landon Donovan was another to miss his spot kick, blasting high over the crossbar. "I hit it like any other penalty," Donovan said. "I made sure the keeper was going the other way and I closed my body. I just put it in the air. It's probably due to tired legs and not concentrating in that moment."