Speculation has already started about Beckham’s precise role should he join the squad on the long haul flight south.
“Whether Beckham is now anything more than a glorified cheerleader if he goes to South Africa remains to be seen,” said The Daily Telegraph, “but it is thought likely that Capello may ask him to carry out other duties, especially helping to work with some members of the squad.”
This role won’t involve any actual work with a ball on a pitch, you know, the sort of place Beckham might be able to help. How do we know this? Well, the same report explains “Beckham will hope to be told that he will soon be able to put weight on his damaged foot, which remains encased in a protective boot. Then, a month or so later, he should be able to start running as part of his rehabilitation. The initial timescale was a six-month recovery.”
Personally I think Beckham is another plank in the Capello media strategy which will become apparent when the World Cup begins. The strategy works as follows. First, keep the players isolated in a remote location. Bafokeng Sports Campus. Check. Second, bring Beckham along and leave him in a hotel miles away, preferably Cape Town or the mid – Atlantic island of St Helena. One glimpse of his smile and the UK press will flock to Beckham’s side. Check. He might even bring his wife. Double check. Meanwhile, Capello and the rest of the squad can get on with the real business of trying to win a World Cup.
Typically, on the morning we learn Beckham might be off to South Africa, news arrives of another who may not.
Reports say Michael Essien probably won’t play for Chelsea again this season. The Ghana midfielder injured his knee during the African Cup of Nations in January having already suffered a hamstring tear earlier in the season. Neither surgery nor rehabilitation seem to be helping.
“Michael Essien will not be in the squad for the weekend's game against Stoke City at Stamford Bridge,” a Chelsea spokesperson is quoted as saying in The Independent.
“We were hoping that Michael recovered before the final game but it now looks unlikely that he will feature for us again this season.”
I’ve always admired Essien. Strong, remorseless and almost machine – like in his ability to dominate opponents, his absence will leave a gaping hole in Ghana’s plans and deprive the World Cup of an excellent player. What a shame.