David Beckham today confirmed his ambition to play for England at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa by agreeing to join AC Milan on loan until the end of the season.
The midfielder, 33, has recognised the need to stay match-fit during the MLS close season if he is to continue to be selected for England by Fabio Capello. Capello omitted the former Manchester United star from his squad to face Switzerland in January, because he didn't believe him to be match-fit, despite Beckham having trained with Arsenal.
Whilst Beckham no longer commands an automatic place in England's starting 11, Capello has welcomed his experience and temperament as a squad member in recent months.
This has earnt Beckham the caps needed to take him within two appearances of becoming England's most capped outfield player. The late, great Bobby Moore, who played 108 times for his country, currently holds that title.
Beckham's attitude over the past year is something that should be roundly admired. To go from the world's most famous (if not most talented) player, leading his country for six years, to being dropped entirely and unfairly by Steve McClaren would bruise many an ego.
You could hardly blame the guy if he never wanted anything to do with the England set-up again. Yet the opposite was true—he has shown a real desperation to be recalled and serve his country, and is man enough to sit on the bench for 80 minutes until called upon by Capello to close out a game.
Beckham recognises his powers are fading, and is not too proud to take a backseat. This is not to say that he does not provide England with anything of use. Beckham is a player who can be called upon to provide a flash of inspiration from a cross or set piece if England needed a goal.
Conversely, if England are looking to protect a lead, then Beckham is a vastly experienced player who can retain possession and provide a calming influence on younger heads around him.
This move to Milan highlights David Beckham's commitment to England. It also may provide the opportunity to silence those who say he can no longer be effective in a top-quality league.
If only Madrid had sorted that contract out properly, Beckham would more than likely still be playing in Europe, and a move to America could have waited until after South Africa.
A 35-year-old Beckham would still stick out like a sore thumb in the woeful MLS.