David Beckham's imminent return to AC Milan is the perfect platform to ensure he boards the plane to South Africa.
If David Beckham manages to cap what has been an incomparable career, in which he has dovetailed winning domestic leagues in both England and Spain ,as well as the Champions League, with establishing himself as the world's most iconic and recognised star since Michael Jordan, then a huge debt of thanks will belong to 'a laboratory tucked 30 miles north of Milan' - a place where he will spend the vital months in the build-up to next summer's World Cup - hoping he can do enough to force himself into Fabio Capello's World Cup plans.
The Milanello 'Lab' was set up in 1963, and was the brainchild of former Milan player Andrea Rizzoli, who served the club as a player between 1954-63.
The facility boasts six pitches, a synthetic pitch and a 'cag', similar to what you would have seen in numerous Nike adverts. With a 2.3-metre wall surrounding the pitch, and a roof to match, the concept is to enforce continuous play that 'enhances the speed of execution'. The complex is regularly used by the Italian national team ahead of international fixtures.
However, the real magic of Milanello lies in the site's laboratory, a place that has significantly extended the longevity of the careers of Rossoneri and Azzuri legends Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta and Paolo Maldini - the latter two extending their careers into their forties.
When Beckham arrived at Milan first time around, his physical capabilities, according to Jean-Pierre Meerssseman, Milan's Medical Director, had the potential to allow him to prolong his playing career into his 40s.
Beckham was put on a specific fitness programme that identified a need to strengthen his upper legs whilst he was also made to wear a precise support in his mouth, ahead of forthcoming dental work, as they felt his balance, and ultimately his fitness, was being affected by the condition. Clarence Seedorf, now in his seventh year at Milan, had a back injury corrected after a similar dental procedure.
The results were immediate. Beckham, who had been criticised in many quarters regarding his fitness saw his body fat drop from 13.5% to 8.5% within weeks - the lowest he had ever been measured. In turn, his form soared markedly, allowing him to make 20 appearances for Milan and add a further five England caps to his huge haul which now stands at 115 - he needs ten more to draw level with Peter Shilton's record of 125.
Nine sport scientists, six masseurs, five physios, four chiropractors and three doctors see to the needs of the first team and together they have reduced non-contact injuries by 90 per cent since 2002. "I've never wanted to stay at a club and work for so many hours," Beckham, who will be 35 by the time of the World Cup, was quoted as saying during his stay in 2008.
Fabio Capello, who managed Milan to significant success between 1991-96 (and far less successfully in 1997-98) has a detailed knowledge of the workings of Milanello and was believed to be significantly involved in Beckham's initial spell in Northern Italy. He was more than aware of its capability to raise his fitness, and, in return, improve his form which had fallen away from the levels that brought him so much success.
Whilst the praise lauded on Beckham, who's only competitive start since June 2007 came in the 6-0 thumping of Andorra on June 10, was over the top, he still has the ability to fight off the challenge from several younger charges and find himself in Capello's plans for a tournament that if selected, at the age of 35, could see him surpass Shilton's England record.
With the chance to play in one of Europe's leading leagues and the possibility of making a return to Champions League football, coinciding with being tailored to peak fitness, at quite possibly European football's leading medical institution, what are the chances of David Beckham capping a quite unique career inside Johannesburg's SoccerCity Stadium on July 11 with a trophy raised high above his head? You wouldn't put it past him.
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