Can David Beckham save Leonardo and AC Milan or is it already too late?
The Serie A season has started out disastrously for Milan, which languishes in 11th place in the standings, has a feeble 2-2-2 record and has scored only three goals.
The team's European Champions League campaign is off to an equally rocky start. It did well to earn a 2-1 win on the road against Olympique Marseille, but this week, almost unthinkably, it lost, 1-0, at home to Swiss nobodies FC Zurich.
The Italian media has jumped on the Rossoneri and already there is widespread speculation that first-year Coach Leonardo will soon be shown the door. One newspaper, Il Corriere dello Sport, claimed that Milan officials already have met with former Milan and Dutch national team standout Marco Van Basten about taking over from Leonardo, a claim subsequently denied by Van Basten's agent.
Leonardo is remaining defiant.
"I've taken this job and I'm doing what I believe," he said." No one put a gun to my head to take the role. We move forward. If we lose, we lose."
But where does this leave Beckham? It is obvious from Milan's play that the Englishman could provide the precision passes that currently are not being provided, especially for forwards Pato and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, and that could start the goals flowing again. Winning and locker room harmony might then ensue.
But Beckham can't rejoin Milan until January, by which time Leonardo might be history and the new coach, whoever he is, might not see Beckham as figuring in his plans.
That, for Beckham, is a troubling thought as he looks ahead to making England's roster for the 2010 World Cup.
-- Grahame L. Jones
Photo: Galaxy midfielder David Beckham greets AC Milan Coach Leonardo during an exhibition in July. Credit: Gabriel Bouys / AFP / Getty Images