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Beckham in Finland for surgery

March 15, 2010
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TURKU, Finland -- David Beckham checked into a hospital Monday for surgery on his torn left Achilles tendon, hoping for a "swift and full recovery" from an injury that will keep him out of the World Cup.

Beckham left a private jet on crutches at Turku airport and was whisked away in an SUV. Minutes later, he arrived at the Mehilainen hospital surrounded by security guards amid cheers from hundreds of fans who had gathered outside the entrance.

Surgery is set for later Monday or Tuesday.

"I am upset but [want] to thank everyone for their messages of support," Beckham said in a statement posted on his personal Web site before his arrival. "I hope to make a swift and full recovery."

The 34-year-old former England captain was injured in the closing minutes of AC Milan's 1-0 win Sunday.

A person familiar with the injury has told The Associated Press he will miss the World Cup "for sure." The person spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement had not been made. The person said it was likely Beckham will play again.

A Finnish doctor set to operate on Beckham said there's a "glimmer of hope" the midfielder will recover in time for the World Cup, which begins in June.

With his hopes of becoming the first English player to appear in four World Cups shattered and his future in international soccer in doubt, Beckham was scheduled for surgery with specialist surgeon Dr. Sakari Orava.

"We have to wait for the results of the scan, but it looks like he is out of the World Cup," England coach Fabio Capello said Monday. "David is a great professional and has worked very hard to be ready for the World Cup, so missing it will be a big blow."

Orava told Finnish broadcaster YLE on Monday that, although it's not realistic to expect Beckham to be fit for the World Cup just three months after surgery, there remains "a glimmer of hope" he could be back for the June 11-July 11 tournament in South Africa.

Beckham, who has been staying at the Principe di Savoia hotel during his second loan stint with Milan, left with a grimace on his face, getting into a car with his father for the trip to Finland.

Wearing jeans, a denim jacket and a black knit hat, Beckham got into the front seat with a bit of difficulty and his father got into the back seat.

Beckham did not respond to questions, never making eye contact with assembled media. A cut was visible on his right cheek, a result of a collision in the first half of Sunday's game.

Beckham's international career for England appears all but over and it remains to be seen how much he'll have left for the Los Angeles Galaxy and Major League Soccer.

Capello and his England assistant, Franco Baldini, spoke with Beckham on the telephone to offer best wishes.

With only a few minutes remaining in the Chievo game and the score 0-0, Beckham was by himself in the center circle when he took a pass with his left foot, stepped back awkwardly, then stepped forward and started hopping on his right foot with an expression of pain on his face. He reached a hand down to his left heel, then stood up and gestured as if he was breaking a twig in half to show the AC Milan bench he knew the tendon was broken.

Visibly in pain and in tears, Beckham went to the touchline for medical attention.

"He felt the muscle begin to come up, which is a typical symptom when you break an Achilles tendon," Milan coach Leonardo told Italy's Sky TV. "This is a real blow."

Milan's medical staff consulted with the Galaxy's medical team, and Milan organizing director Umberto Gandini spoke with Galaxy owner Timothy J. Leiweke, president and CEO of AEG, but it was Beckham who decided to go to Finland.

"It was the player's decision," Gandini told the AP on Monday. "It's the player who decides for his own health, and the player's decision was to go to Finland where there is a surgeon who specializes in these injuries."

Gandini added that no post-surgery plans had been made, but that Beckham's career is not at risk.

David Beckham
Claudio Villa/Getty ImagesDavid Beckham tore his left Achilles tendon in the closing minutes of AC Milan's win on Sunday.

"No, I don't think so. I'm not a physician but it's certainly not the first time a footballer has injured his Achilles tendon, and players have come back and played after those injuries," Gandini said.

While Beckham has not been a starter for England in recent matches, he was likely to make the World Cup squad. Beckham was still prized for his free kicks and crosses, especially when England needed second-half goals.

And for many, he is the most well-known soccer player in the world, a fashion icon with a celebrity wife, former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham.

The former Manchester United and Real Madrid star was on his second loan stint at AC Milan from the Galaxy as he tried to boost his chances of making Capello's 23-man World Cup squad. He has scored 17 goals for England and made 115 appearances, second in England history behind only goalkeeper Peter Shilton's 125 from 1970-90.

Beckham was England's captain from November 2000 through the 2006 World Cup.

"He'll probably be out for five or six months," AC Milan vice president Adriano Galliani told Sky. "I saw him really suffering. In the changing room I hugged him and told him that if he wants he can join us next year, too."

It was yet another blow for Major League Soccer, already facing the threat of a players' strike ahead of the season opener on March 25. Beckham is the league's highest-paid player with a $32.5 million, five-year contract -- and its biggest draw.

"We just received the information about David's unfortunate injury," MLS commissioner Don Garber said. "We wish him a speedy recovery."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.