England star midfielder David Beckham ripped Los Angeles Galaxy teammate Landon Donovan as unprofessional ahead of his return to the Major League Soccer squad on Monday.
US star Donovan criticized Beckham as stingy, selfish and a poor captain in book excerpts published last week in Sports Illustrated, with Beckham answering Saturday that Donovan should have come to him with the complaints first.
“It’s unprofessional in my eyes,” Beckham said. “In every soccer player’s eyes throughout the world it would be unprofessional to speak out about a teammate, especially in the press, and not to your face.
“But I’m going to turn it on a positive spin because that’s what this needs. In 17 years, I have played with the biggest teams in the world and the biggest players and not once have I been criticized for my professionalism.”
Beckham rejoins the Galaxy for practice on Monday ahead of his return match Thursday in New York and a home exhibition July 19 against AC Milan, the team for which Beckham was loaned for five months during the Italian season.
“It’s important to get this cleared up and I will be speaking to Landon… over the next couple of days,” Beckham said. “Me and Landon will talk, but that will be a private conversation.”
Donovan told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that he wished he had spoken to Beckham rather than reveal his feelings to a reporter.
“I’m not going to apologize for the way I felt,” Donovan said. “What I feel badly about is that I should have been a man and told David how I felt as opposed to telling a reporter.
“Obviously, the lesson I learned is that it’s not something that needs to be public. It’s something we need to figure out within the team and it will get solved.”
Beckham said he does not see any problem in working with Donovan, whose finishes would be vital to Beckham’s precision centering kicks.
“I’m personally very professional when I am on the field,” Beckham said. “I don’t care what people say about me off the field Once I’m on the field I’m professional and if there is a chance for him to score, I’ll be giving him the ball.”
The book, “The Beckham Experiment”, hits shelves on Tuesday. Beckham said that he will not be among those reading it.
“This is an unofficial book that I have not participated in,” Beckham said. “I haven’t sat down one to one or spoken about the book so there is not comment where I have sat down with the journalist. There are many unofficial books that have been published about me, so this is just another one on the shelf.”
Donovan said that reading the book would provide a better context for his criticism.
“What you don’t get from reading a few excerpts and what you do get from reading the whole book is that we all want David to be here, we all want him to succeed, and he wants to succeed,” Donovan said.
“Something happened at some point last year where a switch went off, and that’s what I want to talk to him about, and we’ll figure that out man to man.
“I think David’s going to come back and play well regardless of what happens. I think he’s motivated. I think he seems like he’s rejuvenated and he’s excited to come back.”
Beckham could buy his way out of his US contract after the MLS season but said he would seek a loan to AC Milan again if need be so he could be fully prepared to play his best for England in next year’s World Cup in South Africa.
“To be involved in the World Cup and to be involved with this England squad, I have to give myself the chance to be at that top level,” Beckham said.
“I’ll do that personally and anything to do that. It’s just saying that for the moment, this is what I need to do. It doesn’t mean I’m running away from a project I believe in.”
Beckham hopes to help the Galaxy improve from their fifth-place standing in the Western Conference and reach the playoffs after missing them for the past three seasons.
“That’s the important part. Now we want to move forward,” said Beckham, who expects little trouble adjusting to his MLS return.
“It isn’t going to be difficult because we’ve got talent on our team,” he said. “It’s just about confidence. It will be different coming back, but I don’t see any problems.”
Beckham arrived in Los Angeles late Friday and stayed awake until 5 in the morning to visit with wife Victoria, his first visit with his family in six months.
On Saturday, Beckham and French legend Zinedane Zidane played with youth in a ceremony to launch a program to create youth football fields.
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