Beckham MLS debut on schedule

By Alex Duff and Larry DiTore LONDON/ATLANTA, Bloomberg

David Beckham will make his debut with Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy on schedule in five months after injuring a knee playing for Real Madrid, his new club said.

Beckham will be sidelined for about a month after damaging a ligament in his right knee during a Spanish league game against Getafe yesterday. The injury will keep him from rejoining England’s national team for two European Championship qualification matches.

The former England captain signed a five-year contract worth as much as US$250 million with Los Angeles and is scheduled to join the Galaxy when his Madrid deal expires June 30.

“We do not expect this injury to affect his arrival in Los Angeles or his debut with the Galaxy,’’ team president Alexi Lalas said in a statement.

The Galaxy open their MLS campaign in Toronto on Aug. 5.

Beckham’s total contract package includes about US$27.5 million in base salary, with the rest tied to club sponsorship, merchandising and promotional arrangements, the Associated Press reported last month.

The 31-year-old Beckham was injured while crossing the ball in a league game against Getafe in Madrid. He hobbled into an advertising billboard surrounding the field before limping off.

Nearing the end of a four-year stint at Madrid, Beckham won back his place on the team last month. His performances since then have raised the prospect of a return to the England squad for the first time since the World Cup eight months ago.

The national team plays at Israel and Andorra in Euro 2008 qualifying matches on March 24 and 28. It is third in Group E, three points behind Croatia and one behind Russia. The top two teams in each group advance to the tournament’s final stages in Austria and Switzerland next year.

Beckham was recalled by Madrid coach Fabio Capello on Feb. 9 after a monthlong exile following announcement of his deal with the Galaxy.

His play in games including a 3-2 Champions League win against Bayern Munich prompted England coach Steve McClaren to say it gave him a selection “problem.’’

McClaren hasn’t picked Beckham since replacing Sven-Goran Eriksson after the World Cup. In August, he said the ex- Manchester United player was not part of his plans for England, although the door was not closed on him.