I’ll admit it; I’ve been a closet fan of David Beckham for more than 15 years. I even vaguely recall him as a fresh-faced lad out on loan at Preston North End (of the Championship), in which he scored 2 goals from his 5 appearances. (link to video) The goal at Wimbledon on the first day of the 1996-1997 season, in which he scored from just inside his own half, is remembered by so many English fans that it has become an iconic image of not just Beckham himself, but the English game since the advent of the Premier League.
True, another blog post about Beckham is probably not the most thrilling thing you’re likely to read this week, but love him or loathe him, he does generate discussion – if not interest – in MLS.
However, I have to call him out on his (or more likely, his representatives’) behavior regarding his mooted move to Tottenham in the Premier League. The prospect of Beckham again playing for a team other than LA Galaxy is incredibly disrespectful to more than one party, and frankly, this yearly “will-he-won’t-he” debate is getting old.
Beckham has never been the most naturally talented player around. As George Best once said of him, “He cannot kick with his left foot, he cannot head a ball, he cannot tackle and he doesn’t score many goals. Apart from that he’s all right.” However, he was always recognized as a player who worked harder than pretty much everybody else, and despite his limitation there is no doubt that he rose to become on of the most influential players in the world, both on and off the pitch. His conduct has always been nothing short of exemplary, and when he came to MLS I was one of those who firmly believed that it would be a good thing, both for the game in the US, and for Beckham himself.
In some ways you could argue that Beckham came to the Galaxy too early; when the contract was signed Beckham was not playing, either for England or for his club side Real Madrid. It seemed like the ideal time for him to leave Europe and come to the States, something which Beckham had always expressed an interest in. Once the agreement was met, however, Beckham forced his way back into the plans of Real Madrid manager Fabio Capello, and ended up winning La Liga on the final day of the Spanish season. It was at that point that Real Madrid approached LA Galaxy in an attempt to retain Beckham’s service; an approach that was quickly rebuffed.
It was reasonable to expect that David Beckham would be fully committed to MLS once he moved to LA. The money he is on is more than fair for a player his age, even without the sponsorships and endorsement deals, and as a player who arrived on the wrong side of 30, LA may well have expected him to retire from international soccer. The success in his last few months at Real Madrid appeared to convince both the England manager and Beckham himself that he could still do a job for the national side, and since he joined the Galaxy, Beckham has played 17 times for England, and for most of those games he has had to fly to Europe and back in the space of simply a few days. This tally would almost certainly have been more if Beckham had not got injured during his second spell on loan at AC Milan.
Ah yes – the loans! Beckham’s recall to the England squad meant that he needed to stay fit in order to play in games during MLS off-season. Personally I would have suggested more time in the gym, or maybe training with a Premiership club; it would have even have been a good time to get those coaching badges he had mentioned. Instead, though, Beckham and his advisors finagled a loan move to AC Milan in January 2009, initially just until the beginning of the MLS season. Eventually this plan was shelved and Beckham stayed in Italy until July, meaning that he missed the start of the US season. The same deal was arranged last season, but instead Beckham damaged his achilles, which not only ruled him out of the World Cup, but also meant he wasn’t fit for MLS until near the end of the season. Since 2008, David Beckham has played fewer games for LA Galaxy than for other teams. (43 vs 45; 29 for Milan, and 16 for England)
This time around, Beckham seems almost certain to go to Tottenham Hotspur in a similar deal, apparently because even now, at 35, he still harbors hope of playing for England in their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. Surely now it is time for the Galaxy say that enough is enough. Beckham signed an extremely lucrative 5-year contract, but has taking every single opportunity to leave the team. No player should be bigger than any team, and Beckham running back to Europe at every possible opportunity is disrespectful to both the Galaxy management (who took a gamble bringing him the America), the Galaxy fans who embraced his arrival, and MLS overall.
LA Galaxy still have the power in this arrangement. Beckham goes nowhere if they don’t give him permission. And I firmly believe that they shouldn’t give him permission. Frankly, they should tell him to shut up. It’s embarrassing for all concerned that he seems to have a desperate desire to get away from MLS. It would have been far more dignified and edifying if he had done a similar thing to Landon Donovan and accepted that the Galaxy are his team, and committed to a contract that was signed of his own free will.
Besides – what can Beckham really contribute at Spurs? I don’t think he’d get many games for them, except for the occasional substitute appearance. The team are doing very well in the Premier League, and the midfield that the team has is probably one of the best in Europe at the moment. It also seems highly suspicious to me that Beckham is interested in playing for the same team that has an agreement with Galaxy owners AEG regarding the London 2012 Olympic stadium.
It seems quite clear that this potential move is less about soccer, and more about making more money. This is hardly a shocking revelation, of course, but this marriage of sorts between Beckham and Phil Anschutz seems to be a complete conflict of interest that surely cannot do anything but harm to the Galaxy.
In all honesty, though, I’m bored of the Beckham ‘saga’. I don’t care if he is friends with Tom Cruise, and I’m no longer bothered about finding out how he’s doing in LA. The Beckham Experiment (copyright Grant Wahl, probably) should be ended because, regardless of whether or not it has succeeded, it has become less of an attempt to promote MLS and more to promote Mr. D. Beckham, OBE.