Beckham takes Serie A switch in his stride

January 12, 2009

David Beckham was in a chirpy mood after making his Serie A debut as a surprise starter in AC Milan’s 2-2 draw at AS Roma on Sunday.

“I thought it was great, I enjoyed it immensely,” the grinning England midfielder told the reporters stretching and scrambling to get their Dictaphones near him in the Stadio Olimpico’s Mixed Zone.

He had reason to be satisfied.

OK it was not spectacular – he did not score or set up any goals.

But, with the Brazilian trio of Kaka, Ronaldinho and Alexandre Pato in front of him, he was under orders from coach Carlo Ancelotti to hold a deep position and dutifully obeyed, competently carrying out his defensive chores.

He still managed to get forward enough to whip in some of his trademark crosses and have one decent shot on goal. The 33-year-old also lasted almost all of his first competitive game since October.

The Italians I chatted with in the press stand were impressed and he got decent reviews in Monday’s papers.

“(It was) nothing to show in a Pepsi ad, but he fought, crossed, shot and helped with humility,” wrote La Gazzetta dello Sport, giving his performance six out of 10. “For the first game, it’s enough.”

Milan fans seemed to have been won too over after giving him an unenthusiastic reception when he was presented to them at the San Siro before a 5-1 win over Udinese last month.

The travelling support did not have any welcome banners ready, but they treated him to warm applause when he went up to take a corner in the second half and again when he was substituted at the end.

Beckham’s loan move from LA Galaxy has been seen by many as little more than a publicity stunt.

But his debut showed that he has come to play football and that he has the tactical acumen to cope in a championship where fellow Britons such as Ian Rush have failed.

Not bad for his first 89 minutes here.

PHOTO: AC Milan’s Pato celebrates with David Beckham after scoring against AS Roma during their Serie A match at the Olympic stadium in Rome, Jan. 11, 2009. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

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