David Beckham's potential move to AC Milan is still at an 'exploratory' stage, a senior Major League Soccer official told Reuters on Thursday, insisting the player will need to return for the start of the 2009 MLS season.
MLS Deputy Commissioner Ivan Gazidis, who has the final say on all player transactions including loans, said the deal will not go ahead unless the Galaxy are sure that Beckham will return for the opening of the season in March.
"We are in exploratory talks to look at whether the opportunity makes sense for the Galaxy and David. If it does - and only if it does - then things will go forward," Gazidis told Reuters.
"I don't think the Galaxy have any interest in him missing regular season games," he added.
With the European transfer window only opening in January, Beckham would have less than three months to play with Milan before he needed to be back in the States.
"He would need to be back (for the MLS start), we are talking about a short term loan," said Gazidis, who compared the potential move to Swedish striker Henrik Larsson's brief spell with Manchester United.
Larsson spent three months with United, on loan from Helsingborg, during the Swedish off-season last year.
END OF ADVENTURE
Gazidis said reports that the loan could mark the beginning of the end for Beckham's American adventure that started when he joined from Real Madrid in 2007 were without foundation.
"There is absolutely no suggestion on anyone's part that David will not play for the full five years of his contract."
The former England captain has been keen to keep his international career alive and won his 107th cap as a late substitute in last week's World Cup qualifier win over Belarus.
Last year he trained with English Premier League side Arsenal in a bid to keep fit for England and his switch to Milan is seen as achieving the same goal - but this time he would be free to play league games for the Italian club.
"We have always been very supportive of David's desire to be part of the England set-up and we will continue to be so," said Gazidis.
Galaxy general manager and head coach Bruce Arena was cited by local media as considering the move "odd" but Gazidis said there could be benefits for the club.
"To have David playing at a high-level, match-fit and returning highly tuned, would be positive for the Galaxy and MLS," he said.
Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani confirmed on Thursday that there were still details to be finalised before the move went through.
"The deal isn't completed yet. We have to decide on it all with his lawyers and with Galaxy," La Gazzetta dello Sport's website (www.gazzetta.it) quoted Galliani as telling Conto TV before Milan's 3-1 win at Heerenveen in the UEFA Cup.
"I am confident but it is absolutely not finalised. We have time over the next few weeks to settle the deal in full agreement with Galaxy, as we don't want to wrong the Californian club in any way."