Los Angeles Galaxy yesterday gave the clearest indication yet that they are about to sanction David Beckham's loan move to Milan by cancelling a Galaxy tour match in Australia in December. The sudden, indefinite postponement of the scheduled game against Queensland Roar in Brisbane on 11 December has been met with disappointment Down Under. But the move will allow Beckham to take some holiday before starting his stint in Milan in early January, and illustrates again the power that the England midfielder wields.
Sources in America stressed last night that the postponement of the promotional game will allow all of Galaxy's players, not just Beckham, to begin their holidays immediately after another, earlier tour match against an "Oceania All Stars Invitational Team" in Auckland, New Zealand, on Saturday 6 December.
"That earlier date was always in the diary and everyone has known about it for a long time," one source said. "The later date in Australia was never set in stone as far as the players are concerned.
"They already have to hang around now for five to six weeks for preparations for the Auckland game. Many of them had booked their holidays to begin straight after that game. The game on the 11th was never going to be conducive to their holidays."
Sceptics will point out, however, that two tour dates in the same region of the planet just five days apart hardly represent an arduous schedule for Galaxy's players, whose season finished last weekend and who do not need to resume training again until March.
The timing of the cancellation of the fixture in Australia coincides directly with Beckham's desire to join Milan, on a short-term deal initially, in a move that most people at Galaxy – including the club's coach, Bruce Arena – had no idea was being planned until Milan announced it last week. Queensland Roar announced that the Galaxy game was off via a statement yesterday on their website, which in turn quoted from a statement provided to them by Galaxy's president of business operations, Tom Payne.
"We were not in a position to absolutely guarantee David Beckham's availability for LA Galaxy game against the Queensland Roar on 11 December," Payne said.
"To avoid disappointment for the many fans that were expected to travel to Brisbane from all parts of Australia for this event, it was decided to postpone this game before tickets went on sale to the general public.
"Those fans with tickets as a result of a priority pre-purchase this week will receive a full refund. We are very hopeful that we will be able to reschedule the game in Brisbane in the near future and will make this a priority for our organisation.
"The game to be played on 6 December in Auckland will take place as scheduled with a full Galaxy squad."
The Roar added a note to their own fans saying they sympathise "with the many club members and football fans who purchased tickets for the Galaxy fixture with the hopes of seeing a quality showcase at Suncorp Stadium. In this case Queensland Roar was not the promoter of the fixture and as such the decision to postpone the match was out of the club's control."
Beckham scored with a trademark, curling free-kick in the Galaxy's 5-3 defeat to Sydney FC at a packed 80,000-seat Olympic stadium in Sydney last November.
Beckham's representatives continue to negotiate his loan to Milan, with legal fine print over wages and image rights the only things slowing a formal announcement of his move. Beckham was inspired to ask Milan if he could join them – and the request came from him to them, not vice versa – because he has been told by the England manager, Fabio Capello, that he will not be considered for selection unless playing regular club football at a decent level.
Beckham is desperate to extend his England career as long as possible and still holds on to his dream of going to the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. The 2009 Major League Soccer season will not resume until early April.
Beckham insists that he intends to return to Galaxy when his loan expires in March but privately has an open mind about his options. Should he be a success in Italy, earning a regular place in Milan's team on merit, it is highly likely he and the Serie A club will want to extend their relationship.
Whether Galaxy will be as rapidly malleable to postpone his return to America as they have been to cancel a tour game is highly doubtful.