Beckham starts training with PSG as they eye up Champions League glory
DAVID BECKHAM trained for the first time with his new Paris St Germain team-mates today as the club began to dream of European success as well as the Ligue 1 title.
Last night's 2-1 win over Valencia at the Mestalla has put PSG in a strong position ahead of the return leg at the Parc des Princes in three weeks' time.
By that time Beckham is expected to have made his French league debut, and it could come as soon as this weekend should he impress on the training pitch.
Access to PSG's Camp des Loges training base today was open to a restricted number of media today with the promise that Beckham would be involved, and the former England captain, now 37, duly made his appearance, wearing a red hat and pink boots.
He had also been present as a spectator in Spain for last night's match.
PSG play Sochaux away from home on Sunday, with the match a sell-out and media seats oversubscribed in the anticipation Beckham, who has signed a five-month deal, could play his first game.
The French sports daily L'Equipe speculated Beckham may be more likely to play against Marseille either in the league on Sunday week, February 24, or in the Coupe de France three days later. Should the former Manchester United, Real Madrid and Los Angeles Galaxy man be involved in any of the games, he would then be likely to have a role to play against Valencia.
PSG lead by six points in Ligue 1 after a run of fine form since the winter break and a dip from both Lyon and Marseille, their increasingly distant rivals.
Funded by rich Qatari owners, domestic success is a minimum requirement for Carlo Ancelotti's team this season, but the prospect of high achievement in Europe is also materialising.
The dismissal of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the closing stages last night came as a setback, and he is certain to miss the home leg on March 6, plus possibly further games if UEFA decide his foul on Andres Guardado was particularly dangerous.
PSG sporting director Leonardo's immediate reaction was that an injustice had been done.
He claimed Ibrahimovic was only sent off because of his standing in the game.
The star Swedish striker appeared to become riled as he challenged with two Valencia players and went over the ball in a challenge with Guardado, prompting referee Paolo Tagliavento to brandish the red card.
The dismissal came swiftly after Valencia pulled a goal back in stoppage time, having trailed 2-0 until then.
Leonardo was asked if he regretted the late twist to the night's events.
"To concede a goal, that can happen due to fatigue for example," Leonardo said. "But the red card... I think Ibrahimovic pays for his reputation. If it was another player committing this foul, he wouldn't be sent off.
"Suddenly, there is a slight bitter feeling because of it."
Ancelotti's troops had taken command with first-half goals from Argentinian pair Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore, with Valencia's late reply coming from Adil Rami.
"Even when you lead 2-0, it's not easy," Leonardo said.
The Brazilian former World Cup winner stressed it was worth remembering the progress PSG have made since Qatar Sports Investments took control of the club in 2011.
"It's only been a year and a half since QSI took over the club," he said, according to psg.fr.
"We are still in the construction phase. Our ambitions isn't only to win a match in the last 16 away from home. It's more than that.
"To win the Champions League? This year, I don't know. But after that..."
Manager Ancelotti agreed with Leonardo's assessment of Ibrahimovic's dismissal.
"It wasn't deserved," he said. "I don't under stand it, it isn't fair."
Italian Ancelotti added: "We played a good match on a difficult pitch. There was quality and a good attitude. We will need to have this same attitude in the return match.
"We had a lot of chances to score and we defended very well. It's a very good performance even if we let in this goal at the end of the match."