David Beckham's celebrity status overshadows continuing ability to make grade on field
Published 21/11/2012 | 05:00
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.
The former England international has announced that he will leave LA Galaxy next month after a six-year stint at the Major Soccer League (MLS) club.
Paris Saint-Germain makes sense. Victoria could go shopping. Beckham would give the Qatar Investment Authority the marquee of marquee signings. Beckham undeniably transcends football. His name gets your club, and ultimately the Qatari government, of whom 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 spoken of with regards to Beckham; his celebrity, his wife, the stores, the publicity he creates.
Dangerously, for this is the most capped 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 have seen the impact Beckham's near six years in the MLS has had. He has helped give it stability, and credibility, moving from Real Madrid when his final achievement in Spain was to win the Primera Liga title. 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 MLS commissioner Don Garber.
The MLS had record average attendances of more than 18,000 when Beckham said he was going. The LA Galaxy recently signed a 10-year broadcasting deal believed to be the most lucrative in the MLS history. 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 Saint-Germain's bid for Beckham, will not offer a disapproving voice. He saw first hand at AC Milan the desire and impact the player could actually have.
He started 33 times in Serie A, picking up an injury that ended his 2010 World Cup hopes in his desire to stay fit. Fabio Capello ended (apparently) his international playing career but took him anyway, and that was something, given the volatility of their relationship.
Capello will go down as the manager who ended Beckham's international career – barring a stunning change under Roy Hodgson – but he made peace, as he had done in Madrid. Capello said Beckham would not play again for Real after announcing his move to LA.
He did, 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. Alex Ferguson grew tired of what came with Beckham before he went to Madrid but he said of the footballer: "(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 or Queens Park Rangers in the 36-year-old Beckham 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. (© Independent News Service)