Originally created 11/22/06

Time's running out for Beckham



LONDON - Not even David Beckham can get a day off to attend a friend's wedding.

The soccer star-pop idol wanted to stay in Rome for an extra day to watch Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes tie the knot, but Real Madrid didn't like that idea.

The Spanish team allowed Beckham to travel to Italy to visit the Hollywood couple Friday. Then the club wanted the injured midfielder back in Spain to sit in the stands for Saturday's game against Racing Santander.

Real Madrid 1, Beckham 0.

"He's injured," Madrid coach Fabio Capello said. "He hasn't recovered and he has to train."

Beckham has been training plenty, including Monday, but he has started only three times this season for Madrid. The injury to his left knee also forced him to miss Madrid's 2-1 victory over Lyon on Tuesday in a Champions League match.

The 31-year-old former England captain, whose contract with Madrid ends in June, is nearing the end of his career. That could be good news for fans of Major League Soccer, and the kids attending his soccer academy in Los Angeles.

Beckham has been contemplating a move to the United States for some time. And given his penchant for the big-time, with his ever-changing hairstyles and advertising campaigns, a country that creates celebrities as fast as most people change socks seems the perfect place for him and his pop star wife, former Spice Girls singer Victoria.

"I want to play at the highest level for a few more years yet," Beckham said at the World Cup in Germany.

"Going to America is one of the ideas that I've thought of in the future."

The future could be sooner than even he expected.

After a shootout loss to Portugal in the quarterfinals of the World Cup, Beckham stepped down as England captain.

A short time later, new coach Steve McClaren dropped him altogether.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the American league is already making plans for Beckham's arrival. Less than two weeks ago, MLS decided on a rule that will allow teams to sign high-profile players despite a salary cap: It's called the "Beckham Rule."

But could Beckham's future really be pushed forward years just because he wanted to spend an extra day in Rome?

Yes.

Capello has shown he is not a huge fan of Beckham by the lack of playing time given to the midfielder.

Rumors in Spain even suggest Beckham could be leaving Madrid in January, when the transfer window reopens.

Despite the glamour of having played alongside other "Galacticos" such as Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and Luis Figo, Beckham might be better off at another team anyway.

He has yet to win a major trophy since joining Madrid in 2003. At Manchester United, Beckham won six Premier League titles. In 1999 he helped the team win the Champions League, the English league and the FA Cup.

Moving to another team will also give him more playing time and a chance to get back on the national team - though that seems unlikely with McClaren in charge.

England, which has only two wins and a tie from its four Euro 2008 qualifying matches, next plays a competitive game at Andorra on March 28.

A jump to the United States, however, will all but end any chance he has to get back on the national team because neither McClaren nor any other England coach is likely to pick someone playing in MLS.

But consider the benefits: He'll be able to hang out with Tom and Katie.