Beckham hopes his stint in Serie A will help him to add to his 107 England caps
By Chris Bevan
David Beckham hopes AC Milan will resurrect his England career - but his short stint at the San Siro could provide him with longer-lasting benefits.
After leaving the 33-year-old LA Galaxy midfielder out of his squad to face Germany on Wednesday, England coach Fabio Capello has underlined that Beckham must prove his form and fitness during his forthcoming loan spell in Italy if he wants to add to his 107 caps.
The pressure is on the former England captain, but one of Milan's biggest stars, Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf, says he and his team-mates will do all they can for him - whether or not Beckham ever plays a competitive match for the club.
And, according to Seedorf, the Rossoneri's sports science programme - the fabled 'Milan Lab' - can help to extend Beckham's playing days at the highest level, as it has done for so many Milan players.
We still don't know if he is going to play or not but we will make him feel part of the team
AC Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf on David Beckham
Beckham, who has been out of action since Galaxy's season finished on 26 October, arrives at the San Siro on 7 January and will spend less than three months with Carlo Ancelotti's side before returning to the United States for the start of the new MLS campaign.
If he impresses in Italy, he could earn a recall for February's friendly with Spain as he tries to win his 108th cap and equal Bobby Moore's England record tally for an outfield player.
But, should he fail to shine, it will only have a negative impact upon his future prospects of playing for the national team.
With his time in Milan limited, it is clear Beckham needs to hit the ground running at the San Siro. Seedorf, however, is confident that he will not take long to settle on or off the pitch.
"David, like myself, is a world citizen and he has the right mentality - an open mind - to adapt quickly to new situations," Seedorf told BBC Sport.
Seedorf joined AC Milan from city rivals Inter in 2002
"When he went to Madrid he performed well and in the US he has done his thing too.
"I don't think he will have big problems adapting to the style of play and his own way of playing will help him - that determination he has in his game as well as the technical ability he also has."
What will also help Beckham is that Milan are flying in Serie A and confidence is high in a team packed with world-class talent. As well as Seedorf, he will join a squad boasting the likes of Ronaldinho, Kaka, Paolo Maldini, Andrea Pirlo and Andriy Shevchenko.
"He will be surrounded by good players so we can help him out - he will not feel that all the pressure is on him," added Seedorf.
"We are definitely going to help him to feel good within the club's system in training. We still don't know if he is going to play or not but we will make him feel part of the team anyway.
"We will all receive him with open arms and help him to reach his goal. I know he is a great professional and he will help us to achieve our goals too.
"Everyone in the squad is excited about the encounter we are going to have with David in January. We are all looking forward to it."
Perhaps the biggest gain for Beckham during his short spell in Italy will be his access to Milan's fitness coaches, as he looks for ways to stay in the England squad until the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa, by which time he will be 35.
Milan have a dozen players in their 30s - along with the 40-year-old Maldini - and, although a few weeks may not be long enough for Beckham to unlock all the secrets of the 'Milan Lab', its expertise in physical care will have undoubted value.
It is not easy for Seedorf, himself 32, to explain the exact workings of Milan's scientific approach, but he is an enthusiastic advocate of it.
He believes it is the "future of football" and is sure Beckham will reap the rewards too.
"Serie A is one of the strongest leagues in the world," the four-times Champions League winner said. "Has the Milan Lab extended my career in Italy? It's not that simple, but it is one of the reasons.
Beckham has not played since the MLS season finished on 26 October
"How does it work? Let's start by saying there is a general philosophy of prevention of injury, then the second thing is that there is a personalised approach and finally we use technology instead of personal opinions.
"For example, when you are leaning on your knees in training then people tell you that you are tired but that is an opinion, not based on any facts.
"With regular check-ups we can prevent any actual problems and the personal attention will tell you if you need more or less of something in your food. It is a general philosophy applied to all the players."
How quickly Beckham feels any effects is largely up to him. But Seedorf feels he will be in the right place to get to the top of his game, something that, with Capello watching his progress, could prove vital.
"It depends on how intensively the player uses the system," said Seedorf. "But it is there for you and you can either use it or wait for the club to give you signals.
"A lot of what they do is not new but what is new is how the club reads the data for each player and implements it in training.
"What I am saying is that you are looking at a person who is not a piece of meat and you have to treat that person the best way possible and prepare him the best way possible so he can perform at his best.
"If he doesn't play well, that is a different story - a technical story."
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