Two teammates will be playing in the UAE next month - with different clubs and different objectives. David Beckham will see his three-month sojourn with AC Milan as a chance to play regular football at a high level and stay in contention for an England place before returning to Major League Soccer. For Landon Donovan, his Los Angeles Galaxy vice-captain, a similar spell at Bayern Munich will give him another chance to prove himself on a bigger stage.
The pair will arrive in the Emirates next week for winter training camps which could help shape their future paths. Beckham, 33, who yesterday chose to end his £2 million-a-year (Dh 11m) deal as the face of Pepsi in order to concentrate on other advertising deals, will be part of the all-star Milan side which prepares to take on Hamburg in the Dubai Football Challenge on Jan 6 (kick-off 7pm) at the new Sevens stadium on Al Ain Road.
While the prospect of the former England captain playing alongside Kaka, Ronaldinho and Andriy Shevchenko whets the appetite, the Bundesliga champions Bayern will also be in town. Donovan, 26, will be with them as they sharpen up their skills in Dubai before playing a friendly against Al Jazira in Abu Dhabi on Jan 10 (kick-off 5pm). With the German striker Lukas Podolski linked with a move to England or back to Cologne, the Munich side see Donovan, initially on loan until March 16, as someone who could provide back-up to Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the Bayern chairman, said: "We'll wait and see how he gets on before deciding whether to extend the loan. "We have a great team, evidenced by the fact we've gone 16 games unbeaten, so we don't need any new faces." In two spells at Bayer Leverkusen, who signed him at the age of 17, Donovan played just seven games, before going back home to the States to play for San Jose and then signing for the Galaxy in 2005. The five-time US Player of the Year says he has matured since his European excursion.
And having shown his form and his finesse again, Donovan is keen to prove his worth to the Bavarian giants and get a permanent deal. Maybe, privately, that is what Beckham is thinking too, despite insisting he will return to finish his American adventure and fulfil his five-year contract with LA. Both Milan and Bayern will use the Dubai camps to set up deals in the January transfer window and resolve the futures of some of their key men.
Milan are chasing a left-sided defender and midfielder, dismissing speculation Fabio Cannavaro could join them from Real Madrid. Bayern have persuaded Bastian Schweinsteiger to commit to a new deal until 2012, and their captain Mark van Bommel is next on the list as he is out of contract next summer. They also hope to get Frenchman Franck Ribery to extend his deal, which ends in 2011. firstname.lastname@example.org