David Beckham and AC Milan are taking a huge risk which could easily backfire for both parties.
The 33-year-old midfielder is poised to join the Italian club on a short-term loan from Los Angeles Galaxy in a bid to keep up his fitness and impress England coach Fabio Capello during the US Major League Soccer close season.
If the deal is agreed, Beckham could anger the American soccer family who had hoped he was in the United States for good and would continue to promote the minority game there.
He trained with Arsenal during the last close season but there was never a chance he would turn out for the London club.
By deciding this time that he needs to play somewhere else, at least for a few months, he may give the impression that Los Angeles and the standard of soccer in the US are not good enough to sustain his ambition of playing at the 2010 World Cup.
But a backlash in America may be the least of his problems.
He has no experience of Italian football and it is not easy to see how he would fit into Milan's plans with famous Brazilians Kaka and Ronaldinho already with the Rossoneri.
Coach Carlo Ancelotti does not play with a winger -- Beckham's traditional role with Manchester United, Real Madrid and England -- while his midfield is packed with talent that a 33-year-old without much pace would struggle to compete with.
After a sticky start this season, Milan are increasingly looking like Serie A title contenders and a big new presence like Beckham could easily upset the balance.
When rumours starting circling about Beckham at least coming to train with Milan, Ancelotti made no mention of him playing.
"If Beckham wanted to train with us, it wouldn't be a problem for me," he told a news conference on Saturday, adding only that the club had been close to signing him in the past.
Milan also have bad memories of signing big-name players in their twilight years.
Ronaldo was overweight and out-of-form when he arrived at the San Siro from Real Madrid in January 2007. The Brazilian scored a few goals but never looked like the player he once was.
When he ruptured knee ligaments in February, which ruled him out for nine months, Milan privately made it clear he would never play for them again even if he made a full recovery.
Ex-Italy forward Roberto Baggio was among other top players who failed to hit their earlier heights after signing for Milan.
Free kick specialist Beckham may well be used mainly as an impact substitute, a lot like his current role with England.
Whether this is likely to enthuse former Milan supremo Capello, only the no-nonsense Italian knows.
Financially though, any agreement could work out handsomely for both club and player.
Media reports say any deal Milan strike with Galaxy will be a 'free' loan, suggesting the Rossoneri would not give any money to the US club and would just pay part or none of his wages.
Milan have admitted cash is at a premium following the recruitment of Ronaldinho from Barcelona, so they will be glad if they can snatch Beckham on the cheap.
His marketing value alone would help Milan make a profit on the venture with replica shirt sales just one of the many revenue generating opportunities connected to one of the world's most famous sportsmen.
The day after Ronaldinho joined in July, Milan fans snapped up over a quarter of all the season tickets sold up to that point and hits on the website were 10 times the average.
Fashion-conscious Beckham is already well-known in Italy and models underwear for famous Italian designer Giorgio Armani. Billboards of his half-naked body already span the country.
A further boost to 'brand Beckham' would re-energise his image in Europe but it could also lead Capello to question whether the "circus" around the England team, which defender Rio Ferdinand recently lamented, may well be returning.
Beckham is hoping to surpass 1966 World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore's outfield record of 108 England caps.
He is massively gambling that his 107th England appearance against Belarus last week is not his last.