|Beckham fulfilled his dream of playing at Manchester United a few days before his injury [AFP]
David Beckham is almost certain to miss playing in his fourth World Cup after his surgeon gave a bleak outlook on the England midfielder's torn Achilles tendon.
Beckham was injured during the final minutes of AC Milan's 1-0 Italian Serie A win over Chievo on Sunday when he was by himself with the ball at his feet.
He shifted his weight, reached a hand down to his left heel and then stood up and snapped his wrists like he was breaking a twig in half and shouted to the Milan bench, "It's broken."
"I am upset but want to thank everyone for their messages of support. I hope to make a swift and full recovery"
David Beckham, England and AC Milan midfielder
England's most capped outfield player is on loan at Milan from the Los Angeles Galaxy during the Major League Soccer offseason so he can be considered for a World Cup place.
But he is now looking extremely unlikely to become the country's first player to appear at four World Cups – even if he is able to kick a ball by the time the finals kick off in South Africa on June 11.
Even with a miraculous recovery, it is unlikely coach Fabio Capello would risk a half-fit player, especially given Beckham's industrious yet stuttering performances in the 2002 finals when he was rushed back from a metatarsal injury.
Capello, who previously coached Beckham at Real Madrid, said last month that Beckham was still "really dangerous" with his crossing and viewed his experience as a key weapon for South Africa.
"I am very sad for David that he has suffered this injury," Capello said on Monday.
|Beckham leaves Milan on crutches en route to Finland [AFP]
"We have to wait for the results of the scan, but it looks like he is out of the World Cup."
Beckham's international career could now be over after 115 appearances, second in English history behind goalkeeper Peter Shilton's 125.
Beckham, in a brief statement on his official website, said: "I am on my way to Finland to see a specialist and have a scan on the injury.
"I am upset but want to thank everyone for their messages of support.
"I hope to make a swift and full recovery."
The World Cup aside, Beckham will have to watch from the sidelines as Milan bid to overhaul city rivals Inter for the Italian scudetto, which he will be desperate to add to his many English titles, European Cup title and Spanish league trophy as his career comes to a close.
Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani reckoned he could be out for around five or six months – but said he was welcome back in Italy next year.
"In the dressing room I hugged him and told him that he could stay with us again next year if he wants," Galliani told Sky television.
Dr Sakari Orava, the orthopaedic surgeon who operated on Beckham at a sports injury clinic in Turku, Finland, on Monday said the "operation went smoothly and nicely".
Beckham's foot will be in a cast for around six to eight weeks, Orava said, after which he can start "more vigorous" physiotherapy.
"To start kicking and playing football [will take] about three months," he said.
Capello is not short of options on the right wing, with Theo Walcott, Shaun Wright-Phillips and James Milner among the players able to play there although Tottenham's Aaron Lennon is currently injured.
Whoever is picked may fill Beckham's shoes in the long run but, for now, none of the names will command the same respect among the opposition.
Beckham, who began his career at Manchester United in 1992, made his England debut against Moldova in September 1996.
Despite being the game's most recognisable face, the furthest Beckham reached at the World Cup was the quarter-finals in 2002 and 2006.
Beckham quit as captain after the 2006 World Cup in Germany and was initially dropped by coach Steve McClaren straight after, but he was restored as England's European Championship qualifying campaign faltered.
McClaren was fired in November 2007 after failing to qualify for Euro 2008, and Beckham survived Capello's takeover.
If Sunday's injury has denied him an Indian summer, he did at least fulfil one dream at the end – going back to play against boyhood club Manchester United last week for the first time since he left after 10 years there in 2003.