Sat, Mar 28, 2009 - Page 18 News List

Road to South Africa won’t be Beckham’s swansong


David Beckham insists he won’t retire from international soccer even if his gruelling road to the 2010 World Cup ends with England victory in South Africa.

Beckham’s desire to be part of Fabio Capello’s squad at next year’s finals is so strong that he is willing to subject his ageing limbs to a relentless schedule that will see him in action virtually non-stop for more than 12 months.

The former Manchester United star will have only four weeks to rest after finishing the Serie A season with AC Milan, where he is currently on loan, on May 31 before jetting back to the US to complete the MLS campaign with LA Galaxy while his England team-mates head off for their holidays.

If LA reach the playoffs, it could mean Beckham plays an extra 11 games. Then after the MLS season ends in November, the 33-year-old will rejoin his Milan team-mates for training and then resume playing in January.

By then Beckham hopes he will be part of an England squad preparing for the start of the World Cup on June 11 next year.

It is a fixture list that would drain many a younger man. But Beckham believes he is fitter than ever thanks to his spell with Milan and he is willing to test his body’s limits for as long as England want him.

“I’d love to go to the World Cup, and be involved in every squad that gets picked up to that time,” Beckham said. “Things can change very quickly. I know that. But I’d love to be involved in that.”

“I don’t think I’d ever retire. I’m passionate about playing for my country,” he said.

“I’m playing pretty well. Fitness-wise, I’m definitely the best I’ve been in a long time. I’ve always said that when my fitness is at a high level, I can perform,” Beckham said.

“Hopefully I’ll be involved in the England qualifying games while I’m back at the Galaxy. If not, I’ll work hard on my fitness and my game,” he said.

Beckham could have saved himself a whole lot of globe-trotting if he had stayed in Europe back in 2007 rather than quitting Real Madrid for LA but he has no regrets about the move.

“I’d finished my career with Real on a high. I wasn’t in the England team. I’ve always said, because people have asked whether I regret it, that it was right at the time,” he said.

The improvement in Beckham’s fitness owes much to the work done by the Milan scientific gurus who extended the careers of Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta into their 40s.

“It’s literally down to training,” he said. “From the moment I arrived in Dubai [for a training camp] with Milan, we’ve worked more than I’ve ever done,” he said.

Beckham will earn his 109th England cap against Slovakia if he makes it onto the Wembley pitch today, a milestone which will make him the country’s most-capped outfield player.

According to reports, some players, including all time record holder, Peter Shilton, are unhappy that Beckham is picking up caps as a substitute.

Beckham denied suggestions that his continued selection is a hindrance to younger players.

“I don’t feel as if I’m getting in the way. I can help with my experience. To be here and be around these players, seeing the talent coming through is a good thing,” he said.

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