David Beckham will miss the World Cup and most if not all the Los Angeles Galaxy season after tearing his left Achilles' tendon Sunday while playing for AC Milan.
His international career for England is all but over. It remains to be seen how much he'll have left for the Galaxy and Major League Soccer.
"He will miss the World Cup for sure," a person familiar with the injury told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because an official announcement had not been made. The person said it was likely the 34-year-old midfielder will play again.
Beckham was injured without getting hit during AC Milan's 1-0 Italian League win over Chievo Verona.
With only a few minutes remaining and the score 0-0, Beckham was by himself with the ball at his feet, shifted his weight and reached a hand down to his left heel. Beckham then stood up and snapped his wrists like he was breaking a twig in half in a gesture to show the AC Milan bench he knew the tendon was broken.
Visibly in pain and in tears, Beckham went to the sideline for medical attention, leaving Milan a man short because it had made all three substitutions.
"He felt the muscle begin to come up, which is a typical symptom when you break an Achilles' tendon," Milan coach Leonardo told Sky. "This is a real blow."
Sky reported that Beckham said, 'It's broken, it's broken," when he came off.
Club physician Jean Pierre Meersseman told Italy's Sky TV that Beckham will fly to Finland, where he will be treated by specialist surgeon Dr. Sakari Orava."He'll go to Finland tomorrow and will be operated on probably tomorrow afternoon or Tuesday morning," Meersseman said.
While Beckham has not been a regular in the England starting lineup recently, he was likely to make the World Cup squad.
The former Manchester United and Real Madrid star was on his second loan stint to AC Milan from Los Angeles Galaxy as he tried to boost his chances of making coach Fabio Capello's 23-man World Cup squad. With no chance to play in the World Cup, his international career is likely over after 17 goals and 115 appearances, second highest number of England caps behind only goalkeeper Peter Shilton's 125.
Beckham, who was England's captain from November 2000 through the 2006 World Cup, had been due back with the Galaxy after the World Cup in South Africa.
"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."
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said it was too early to tell exactly how long Beckham will be out. He didn't want to discuss the impact the injury would have on Los Angeles' season. He wouldn't blame the injury on the loan.
"Players get hurt whether they're on loan or not," he said. "Injuries are unfortunately part of the game."
Capello and his England assistant Franco Baldini spoke with Beckham on the telephone to offer best wishes, according to British news agency The Press Association.
In April 2002, Beckham broke a bone in his left foot during a European Champions League game against Spain's Deportivo La Coruna. His injury and recovery were front-page news to fixated England fans.
England fell short in the 2002 World Cup and yet again in 2006, still hoping for its first title since 1966.
Beckham returned Sunday to AC Milan's starting lineup after Wednesday's 4-0 Champions League loss at Manchester United, his first match at Old Trafford against his old club since he left after the 2002-03 season. Beckham was treated Sunday for a deep cut to his right cheek following a collision early in the first half.
With the game scoreless, Beckham nearly scored in the 84th, but Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino stopped his close-range effort.
"Beckham came here because he wanted to help Milan return to the top and he was looking to get a jersey for the national team and participate in the World Cup," Milan defender Gianluca Zambrotta said. "If other victories come, there will surely be a dedication for David Beckham."
Sunday's win moved Milan within one point of Serie A leader Inter Milan with 10 games remaining.