Milan:David Beckham's arrival at AC Milan was greeted with great fanfare and a modicum of skepticism over whether the 33-year-old midfielder will be able to contribute to his new team's star-filled lineup.
Beckham acknowledged during an introductory press conference on Saturday that playing for Milan on loan from the Los Angeles Galaxy was a gamble. But the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star said it both fulfilled his dream of playing with a topflight Italian team and of working on his fitness during the American offseason in an attempt to maintain a spot on England's national team.
"I wouldn't take this opportunity if I didn't think that I could help the team and help the club," Beckham said. "There are some great players out there. I don't expect to be starting on the first day, because it doesn't happen that way."
England coach Fabio Capello has made clear that it is not enough for Beckham to train with AC Milan _ he must also play to be considered for the team.
"That is exactly the right thing a manager should do," Beckham said. "If any player is not playing in a team or playing at a top level, (then) playing at an international level is virtually impossible."
Beckham said he felt he needed to play at the highest level to get fit and stay in contention for the England team during the long Galaxy offseason, adding that Capello was among the people he consulted.
Beckham's loan officially begins Jan. 7 and will expire on March 9, Milan vice president Adriano Galliani said. He'll get to work after the holidays when he joins his new teammates at a training camp in Dubai on Dec. 29.
Galliani is confident that Beckham would be up to playing, saying doctors reported him to be healthy.
"He is in really great physical condition, I am told, and I believe that after the period of preparation in Dubai, I believe he will be up to playing," Galliani said.
Beckham, who cannot play competitive matches with Milan until the transfer window opens in January, will salute fans on Sunday ahead of the team's league match against Udinese. He will also reportedly meet Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who owns the team.
But not everyone is pleased with Beckham's arrival. Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso said he doesn't understand the point of Beckham's temporary move.
"This Beckham thing seems very strange to me. Perhaps it would've been better and more right if he stayed for the whole season and signed a proper contract," Gattuso said this week. "To be here for six weeks to two months seems pretty strange."
Beckham will wear No. 32 at Milan.
"I think it was the first number they offered me and I said yes straight away, because I would have worn any number to play in," he said.
Beckham made his opening remarks in Italian, struggling at the end to remember a few words. "I really happy to be here," he said in English, before recalling the Italian he had been reaching for: "venire qui," or to come here.
"I have been very lucky in my career to play at some of the biggest clubs in the world, with Manchester United, Real Madrid and now AC Milan. There are no bigger clubs than those in the world," he said.
With England, Beckham is one short of the national team's outfield appearance record of 108 games played by Bobby Moore, the 1966 World Cup captain, but Capello said he will not select him just so he can equal or pass that mark.
"It's not important for me, the record. It's important for Beckham, not for me," the England coach said. "He's a very important player. But if he will be in the squad it's because he is in a good spell of form. When he plays it's because he's fit and playing well not for the record."
Beckham's arrival in Milan also added a celebrity element that has become part of the footballer's entourage.
Beckham, who is married to fashion icon Victoria Beckham and who has himself done underwear ads for the Milanese designer Armani, said Milan's status as a fashion capital did not enter into his decision.
"No, fashion had nothing to do with my choice in coming to Milan," Beckham said. "The red and black shirt was the reason I came to Milan, and the history behind the club."
Victoria Beckham sat in the front row during the news conference wearing a slim-fitting short-sleeved dress, black gloves and stiletto heels. Following her husband's example, "Posh Spice" has recently signed on as the spokeswoman for the new Armani lingerie line.
She and the couple's three boys will remain in Los Angeles for most of her husband's stint, but they will visit as often as possible, she said.
"They're going to be staying in school, but we're going to be coming over as much as we can," Victoria Beckham said. "We're very, very excited."