Signed by a government. That’s how it could end, on the football field at least. Too big for football clubs now. David Beckham, the politician’s favourite player.
Paris makes sense. Victoria could go shopping there. Beckham would give the Qatar Investment Authority, owners of Paris St-Germain, the most marquee of marquee signings. Beckham undeniably transcends football. His name gets your club – and ultimately the Qatari government, of which the QIA is an investment arm – into the consciousness of people all over the world. Zlatan Ibrahimovic becomes “I’m a Celebrity...” fodder in such company.
And this is the narrative increasingly surrounding Beckham; his celebrity, his wife, the stores, the publicity he creates.
Dangerously, for this is the most capped outfield player ever to pull on an England shirt, his ability on a field slips further into the subconscious.
The chief executive of Melbourne Heat, Scott Munn, pitched early.
“We’re putting forward an offer,” he said. “It’s compelling and the opportunity is here for him to come here. That is absolutely legitimate. Let’s let David get through next week, play the final of the MLS and hopefully he’ll have a win. Then I’m sure he’ll assess every offer.”
Another club, another continent.
The A-League has seen the impact Beckham’s near-six years in America’s MLS has had. He has helped give it stability, and credibility, moving from Real Madrid when his final achievement in Spain was to win La Liga. Beckham was still young when he moved to America, changing the perception that it was a calling for those almost finished.
“There is no doubt that MLS is far more popular and important here and abroad than it was when he arrived,” said the MLS commissioner Don Garber.
“When David Beckham signed with the LA Galaxy in 2007, he set out to help grow MLS and the sport of soccer in North America. David has achieved great things on and off the field during his time with the Galaxy, and he will always be an important part of our history. We look forward to his continued involvement with the LA Galaxy and the league.”
The possibility to move to another continent now that Beckham is set to pull the curtain down on his time, as a player at least, in the US, offers opportunities for hungry clubs in Australia. The Herald Sun reported yesterday that five of the 10 A-League members had, or would, declare an interest.
“There’s stuff going on behind the scenes,” said a Central Coast Mariners spokesman. “We’re definitely putting our hand up. He would fill the stadium and change the game up here.”
The MLS had record average attendances of over 18,000 when Beckham said he was leaving. The LA Galaxy recently signed a 10-year broadcasting deal believed to be the most lucrative in the history of the competition. That seems to overshadow his MLS Cup victory from 2011 and three Western Conference titles. In the past two seasons, Beckham has started 54 out of 64 regular season games, scoring nine times.
This is why Carlo Ancelotti, despite not being the driving force in Paris St-Germain’s bid for Beckham, will not offer a disapproving voice. He saw first-hand at Milan the desire and impact the player could have. Beckham started 33 times in Serie A, and such was his competitive drive, he picked up an injury that ended his 2010 World Cup hopes.
The then England manager, Fabio Capello, had a volatile relationship with Beckham dating back to their days at Real Madrid together, but he took him to South Africa anyway in a coaching capacity. Capello will go down as the manager who ended Beckham’s international career but he made peace, as he had done in Madrid. Capello said Beckham would not play again for Real after the player announced his move to LA. He did though, and the pair’s final act at the Bernabeu Stadium together was to give the people of Madrid a first domestic title in four years.
“The truth is that with him [Beckham] we made a mistake,” Capello conceded. “Beckham is a great player. Now he is playing at the same level as he did at Manchester [United].”
There were six Premier League titles in an eight-season spell at Old Trafford, along with two FA Cups and, of course, the Champions League. Sir Alex Ferguson grew tired of what came with the footballer before he went to Madrid but he said of Beckham: “[He] practised with a discipline to achieve an accuracy that other players wouldn’t care about.”
It has become too easy to look at the interest of Anzhi Makhachkala (at 20-1 odds) or Queen’s Park Rangers (16-1) in the 37-year-old and forget what has gone before.
Ancelotti will know from personal experience that if “Team Beckham” lands in Paris, once the handshakes have stopped, he will get a footballer, first and foremost.
Out of this world: Beckham's Galaxy record
* Joined LA Galaxy from Real Madrid in July 2007.
Games Goals Assists
2007 5 0 2
2008 25 5 10
2009 15 2 4
2010 10 2 3
2011 30 2 19
2012 29 7 10
* Beckham helped Galaxy win the Western Conference three years running between 2009 and 2011. The club made the final of the MLS Cup in 2009 (losing) and 2011 (winning) and face Houston Dynamo in this season’s final next Saturday – Beckham’s last appearance.