Could Beckham be the new Pirlo?
If David Beckham’s loan move to AC Milan goes through, one of the options coach Carlo Ancelotti has in mind is to use him as an alternative to Andrea Pirlo as a deep midfield playmaker.
It’s an interesting possibility which could help Beckham edge towards Peter Shilton’s record of 125 England caps as a protagonist rather than the bit player he is at the moment.
Beckham certainly has the passing ability to take on Pirlo’s ‘quarterback’ role. If he adapted to it successfully, the switch might help him seize a regular place in Fabio Capello’s side because pace is less of a premium there than it is in his usual position on the wing. Indeed, Pirlo is no Asafa Powell.
Sceptics could counter that Beckham played in the centre of midfield for a while during his time at Real Madrid with mixed results.
But then it was more of a stop-gap measure than a full-blown career move that would require commitment from the player and patience from coaches and team mates as he acquires the vision to dictate from deep.
What’s more, a loan stint at Milan would give him the chance to learn from Pirlo, the game’s undisputed master quarterback.
Pirlo himself started off elsewhere and adapted to this position. He arrived at Milan as a ‘trequartista’, playing behind the strikers, but Ancelotti used him in front of the defence in the 2002-03 season because of injuries to Gennaro Gattuso and Massimo Ambrosini. Player and coach never looked back.
One aspect of Pirlo’s play that is often overlooked is his tackling and ball-winning, essential for someone sat so near to the backline.
But Beckham has never struck me as a shirker when it comes to physical challenges, so he should be able to cope with that side of the job too.
Another question is whether the move might complicate matters for Capello, who already has the problem of finding a way for Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard to coexist in the centre of England’s midfield.
But the Italian manager might be tempted by a reinvented Pirlo-style Beckham anyway, as neither Gerrard nor Lampard are that type of player.
Furthermore, Milan have shown that a team can afford to have two playmakers by successfully using Pirlo and Kaka together, as long as the deeper one pulls his weight when the opposition have the ball. England could have Beckham in front of the centre backs and field Gerrard or Lampard further forward in a similar way.
Since changing positions, Pirlo has won two Champions League titles, a Serie A crown and the World Cup with Italy. So it might be worth giving it a try with David.
PHOTO: England’s David Beckham reacts during their 2010 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Kazakhstan at Wembley Stadium, London Oct. 11, 2008. REUTERS/ Eddie Keogh