Paris: Loaned to AC Milan to resuscitate his football career, David Beckham is perhaps too busy to write a "Dear John" letter to his American fans, to explain that he wants out of the Los Angeles Galaxy and that they may have lost him to Italy for good. If Beckham could put pen to paper, here's what he might say:
Dear the United States of America,
Dear LA Galaxy,
Breaking up is never easy, especially when the wedding cost millions and there's no pre-nup. But, please, you have to let me go.
Truth is, I've found another love. She's Italian. With her, I feel young again, she's given me a new lease on my footballing life. Even Victoria – "Posh Spice" doesn't do her justice – is calling me "Goldenballs" again. I've rediscovered my magic touch.
Her name is AC Milan. They call her players the "Rossoneri," and I've been tickled pink ever since I pulled on her shirt. Like my times with Manchester United and Real Madrid, I'm back where I deserve to be: playing for one of the biggest football clubs in the world.
Yes, I know I said my move to Italy on loan would be a short-term thing, that this was just a trial separation and that I'd be back in March. But I didn't know then that being with AC Milan would be so much fun. (And the boutiques in Milan ... Wow!)
Perhaps you missed my goal for Milan against Genoa. Was it shown on TV there? Or did that other type of football - the American kind played with rugby balls and all that padding – hog the limelight again? That bugs me.
Anyhow, the goal was a gem, the kind that made me famous, a free kick curved over the wall from an almost impossible angle. The 'keeper flailed like a crash-test dummy. I can bend it again, baby!
And my Bologna goal, that was another beauty for the highlight reel, lifted right out of Stevie Gerrard's book at Liverpool. On the run, first touch, right foot, bam! I'm still learning Milan's language, but I know what "bellissimo" means. Put me in the right arena, and there's plenty of kick left in these 33-year-old legs.
I know it's hard on you. We had grand plans together. My face, fame and supposedly fading skills; your business acumen and big dreams. Together, we were going to put the "Major" back into League Soccer (or is that football?), plus make a bundle and some celebrity A-list friends in the process.
But, somehow, the whole experience has been so ... what's the word? ... underwhelming. Baseball, hoops, the wrong kind of football. Seems that there's just not enough room for us all. Fergie, Sir Alex, my old boss at Manchester United was spot on, it seems, with his comment that "David Beckham himself can't change the whole country."
In MLS, I'm a big fish in a small sea. At Milan, I'm a big fish in an ocean, playing alongside other megastars at a club where players seem to go on and on like Duracell bunnies. Teammate Paolo Maldini turns 41 this year! Longevity. It's important to me. So is playing with the best.
I don't know if you read my recent interview with Italian paper Corriere della Sera, but I think and hope you'll get the message. Sometimes, you've got to be a little cruel to be kind.
"The Americans are doing everything they can to improve the level and reputation of their game. It's a young league and I think it needs another 10 years to become successful," I said. "I have to admit that, having played in Europe, sometimes it was frustrating playing in certain games. But every now and then, moving from one state to another, I also enjoyed myself."
Fact is, money isn't everything. I'm thinking of myself and my country here, too. Perhaps it's age, perhaps it's vanity, perhaps it's the passion for football I've carried since I was kid. But I cannot bear the thought of saying goodbye to England's white, three-lioned shirt.
I've played 107 times for England. Just one more game to equal the great Bobby Moore's record for an outfield player. Serving my country is something I know that you, my American friends, can understand. The World Cup is just around the corner. I'm already the only England player to have scored in three separate World Cups (1998, 2002 and 2006). I'd love to give it another crack in South Africa and silence those idiots who say I'm just a clotheshorse and refuse to recognize me as the gifted and dedicated footballer I am.
But for that, I've got to impress England coach Fabio Capello. Crikey, is he a hard nut to crack. I don't think he watches MLS. He suggested that I go to Milan. At least in Italy, I know he keeps an eye on me. It's kind of hard not to when I'm playing so well. I won him over before when he and I were both at Real Madrid, proving he was wrong to drop me from the squad. With Milan, I know I can do so again. Capello has included me in the England team that will play Spain in a friendly this week, so my Italian job does seems to be paying off.
My side is now talking to your side. I hope the lawyers can work out an amicable split. Of course, I will come back on March 9 and fulfill my MLS obligations if you insist. But we both know that my heart now lies elsewhere. Yes, Victoria might miss Hollywood and pals Tom and Katie Cruise. It's true, she seemed to fit right in there. But Milan is hardly slumming it.
This isn't it about fame or fortune. For once, it's just about football.
John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.