February 6, 2009

Send Beckham Back to Europe

Print More

You can take the man out of Europe, but you can’t take Europe out of the man. One of the world’s highest-profile soccer players, David Robert Joseph Beckham, hoisted the white flag and announced on Sunday that he had had enough of his $250 million deal with the L.A. Galaxy — he wanted to head back to his continent of origin. Beckham, currently on loan from the Galaxy to Italy’s A.C. Milan team, was supposed to return to L.A. in early March, but now his lawyers are looking to negotiate a way for the former Real Madrid and Man­chester United star to stay.
A.C. Milan has won all five of its games that Beckham played in, and he has played well. Adriano Gallard, A.C. Milan’s vice president, coyly said that the team is “desperate to sign him and I will keep hoping until the last possible moment.”
Things got really crazy when Beckham flirted back with: “I have expressed my desire now to stay in Milan and hopefully the clubs can come to some agreement.”
But wait… what are you going to tell the other team, Becks? They’ll be heartbroken. Have you broken the news yet?
“I have not spoken to Galaxy, but someone has from my side and it is literally down to them to come to some sort of agreement and hopefully they will.”
Galaxy fans are split on the idea; Beckham is a superstar presence that sells tickets and merchandise and helps gain recognition for the team. His first active match in LA drew the highest ratings that MLS had ever received on ESPN. On the other hand, his play in the U.S. has been inconsistent — some say he does not fit in to the Galaxy’s offense — and how much good is an unhappy player anyway?
I’d say good riddance to him. Beckham floated over, Posh Spice in tow, like he was Francis Drake claiming a spot of California for the English empire. He missed his first game with the Galaxy with a sprained ankle, watched as the team suffered five consecutive defeats in August 2007 and helped LA to a not-so-shiny 9-14-7 record for the season.
One ineffective, injury-filled year later, Beckham is looking more like General Cornwallis, sending his underlings to ask for his release, then scurrying back across the Atlantic to friendlier shores.
Why does he want to leave Hollywood? To start with, he probably misses playing on a good team. AC Milan is one of the best teams in the world. The Galaxy has been nowhere near the playoffs in two years and was the worst defensive team in the league last season.
“My main objective is to stay at this club and I enjoy playing here and at the highest level and it would give me more of a chance (of playing in the World Cup),” Beckham said.
World Cup ambitions make sense. Less understandable is his perception that he is apparently not getting enough attention. Shocking, as his every move has been tracked by gaggles of sportswriters and paparazzi. According to certain tabloids, Snoop Dogg is interested in making a porn with him and Justin Timberlake thinks Beckham is his doppelganger. But he still needs a bigger profile.
“It’s nothing against MLS and the football over there because it’s a game that will grow,” he said. “But it will take quite a few years.”
Unfortunately, Beckham was actually the one who was supposed to be making it grow. He was the magic fertilizer that was going to turn MLS into a U.S. supersport on the same level as the NFL. And he even knew it.
“I’m coming there to make a difference,” he boldly stated when his mega-contract was first announced in January 2007. “I’m coming there to play football. I’m not saying me coming to the States is going to make soccer the biggest sport in America. … But I think soccer has a huge, huge potential. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t believe in this project. This could create something that we’ve all never seen before.”
Now, he is about to undo much of the progress MLS has made in the past few years. Beckham is the biggest of many big names in soccer that are on loan from MLS teams to European teams, and the “mercenary soccer star” rotation from the U.S. to Europe makes the MLS seem even more like the minor leagues of soccer.
But at this point, the news about Beckham is out and the damage is done. Even if he does return to the Galaxy, the entire globe now knows that Beckham regards the MLS as on a lower tier than European teams, and a secondary priority.
The MLS should save face and let him go. Beckham was a circus act — a big, bright name to put on the marquee of an otherwise-shabby sporting league. In order to gain mass appeal in the United States, the MLS needs to develop and market appealing American players, rather than expensive European imports with a taste for the spotlight.