David Beckham left Milan on a flight to Finland on Monday for surgery on his torn left Achilles’ tendon, an injury likely to keep him out of the World Cup.
Italy’s Sky TV said Beckham departed Linate airport at about noon (11:00 GMT).
The 34-year-old former England captain was injured in the closing minutes of AC Milan’s 1-0 win over Chievo Verona on Sunday.
With his hopes of becoming the first English player to appear in four World Cups shattered and his future in international football in doubt, Beckham was scheduled to be operated on either Monday night or Tuesday morning by specialist surgeon Dr. Sakari Orava.
Before the flight, Beckham left a Milan hotel on crutches.
“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 on 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.”
Dr. 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” that he could be back for the World Cup — taking place 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.
Beckham did not respond to questions, never making eye contact with the assembled media. A cut was visible on his right cheek, a result of a collision in the first half of Sunday’s game.
“David is on way to Finland to see a specialist,” Beckham’s spokesman Simon Oliveira said. “He is understandably upset but wants to thank everyone who has sent him messages of support. He hopes to make a swift and full recovery.”
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 their best wishes.
With only a few minutes remaining in the Chievo game and the score tied 0-0, Beckham was by himself in the centre 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.
Italy’s SKY TV reported that Beckham said, `’It’s broken, it’s broken,” when he came off.
“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.”
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 Associated Press 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.
“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,” Mr. Gandini said.
While Beckham has not been a starter for England in recent matches, he was likely to make the World Cup squad. Although no longer a regular starting player for England, Beckham was still prized for his free kicks and crosses, especially when England needed second-half goals.
And for many, he was the most-nkown football player in the world, a fashion icon with a celebrity wife, former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham. A 2002 movie was even named after him, “Bend it Like Beckham.”