If Beckham leaves the States, what next for the MLS?
It seems likely that the ex-England midfielder, model, tabloid obsession and advertiser’s dream is to leave the LA Galaxy at the end of the current MLS season, ending a spell which began with the most shocking transfer story in modern history.
Despite the insistence from the President of the MLS, Mark Arbott, that the Galaxy would make any decision on a contract extension for Beckham based on his performances rather than his celebrity status or marketability, no deal has been agreed even though Beckham’s displays in the past year have been among his best, and certainly most consistent, since the move that stunned the football world.
It’d be a nonsense to think that the not-exactly-publicity-shy Beckham would fade into the background, especially now he’s confirmed he wants to take a slot in the historic 2012 Great Britain Olympic side.
Whatever this iconic figure decides to do if his love-hate relationship with the Galaxy ends, we’re going to hear about it. So what are his likely options? One would imagine that playing in English football would keep him in the eyes of whoever will be coaching the team at London 2012, not to mention the thoughts of Fabio Capello – Becks is known to still cling to his dream of appearing for England at Euro 2012.
Despite the thawing of his once-cold relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United would see him as neither use nor ornament in a title-winning side already bolstered by Ashley Young, Phil Jones, and David De Gea.
Arsenal once wanted the former England captain on loan, but it’s taken yet another year of underachievement and failure to win silverware to persuade Arsene Wenger to look for tall, physical players. It’d be a bit of a change of tack for ‘the Professor’ to suddenly sign a player who is over 30 and English.
The obvious option, according to the tabloid press, is a return home to London with Tottenham Hotspur, where he spent a month maintaining his fitness last season. Spurs know that the key to making money in the long-term is continued Champions League qualification but what better way to bolster revenue in a season where they’re stuck with Thursdays on Channel 5 rather than Tuesdays on Sky than the most marketable man in the history of the game?
Also, Harry Redknapp is keen. Okay, so we know that ‘arry talks publicly about signing about 500 players a season, but he was really fawning over Beckham when asked earlier in the year. The textbook Redknapp sales patter was gone, and it was replaced with what appeared to be hero worship!
However, it’s not advised to rule out any possibility when it comes to a man who left the richest club in the game for a side who play in a stadium that is smaller than most in the second tier in England.
AC Milan would surely be interested in bolstering their Serie A winning side from last year with a face they know and trust, and the move could suit Beckham; Italian football’s slow and patient style would work for a man who has never been blessed with the gift of pace, and Milan’s famous training centre and methods are still paying dividends for the club, with older players like Clarence Seedorf, Gennaro Gattuso, Pippo Inzaghi and until recently Andrea Pirlo starring for the club well into the autumns of their respective careers. Despite the finances of the Rossoneri going as strong as ever thanks to their controversial owner, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, one thing Milan won’t want to do is pay a large fee for any reinforcements, having committed €24 million to keep Zlatan Ibrahimovic already this summer. Luckily, Becks is a free agent!
Other likely possibilities to look at for the near future include a sensational return to Real Madrid – though not as a player. Interestingly, Galaxy play Madrid in a friendly in three weeks time.
Florentino Perez, the infamous Real chairman who turned the Madrid giants into the Galacticos, signing Beckham among others, is back in power at the Santiago Bernebeu, and is already making use of his ex-employees: Zinedine Zidane is a ‘special adviser’, transfer negotiator and part-time coach, Ronaldo (of Brazil fame) is being used as some kind of master specialist in persuasion to get Brazilian wonderkid Neymar to sign, and it is thought that the likes of Figo, Roberto Carlos and (almost certainly) Raul will return to help their old boss and Jose Mourinho create “Galacticos II”. Whilst Beckham is as important, if not more so, to the club than those legends in terms of advertising and marketing, my money wouldn’t be on this happening before the Olympic Games due to Beckham’s desire to keep playing.
Buying a franchise
One near-certainty for the future would be a continuation of Beckham’s business activities in America. In an interview in 2009, he said: “I have the right to own an MLS franchise, which I will action immediately after I have stopped playing.” Retirement from playing isn’t on his mind yet, as the ambitions mentioned above about England and London 2012 attest, but might the American link provide a clue to where his next move is?
If Beckham were to have any role with Real Madrid, he’d be most likely to join up with Real Salt Lake, who signed a 10-year deal with Madrid in 2006 to share facilities and co-operate with each other. But I can’t see the Beckhams and their entourage moving to Utah, quite simply.
I’m not a gambling man but if I were, my money would be on Beckham eventually joining Spurs, not only because of their proximity to his London home and the possible boost to his England/Great Britain prospects, but also because of Tottenham’s links to the bookie’s favourites to land the 20th MLS franchise – the New York Cosmos.
Paul Kemsley, a British businessman, is the chairman of the Cosmos. Kemsley has worked with, and is close friends with, current Spurs chairman Daniel Levy and major shareholder of Spurs’ holding company, ENIC. Also, Kemsley is an ex-vice chairman at White Hart Lane.
The links don’t end there – also on the Cosmos’ staff are – Cobi Jones, former team-mate and coach of Beckham at Los Angeles, the great Eric Cantona, who Beckham idolised as a youngster at Manchester United, and, most notably, Terry Byrne.
Byrne isn’t a household name but he’s a major figure in the David Beckham story. He is a personal friend of the star, and was manager of his business affairs for five years in the noughties – the period that included the opening of Beckham’s soccer academies and the move to Los Angeles.
The Cosmos cannot join the MLS until 2013 at the earliest, which gives England’s highest capped outfield player a little under 18 months after the end of what is likely to be his final season as a Galaxy player in November to have a little fun before a return to America with some old friends.
Now, real life very rarely turns out like it does in the movies made in Beckham’s current home town, and I don’t think that the icon will achieve everything he sets out to, as Fabio Capello has already stated that any England appearance for his ex-Real Madrid charge will be limited to a final farewell, rather than a squad place in Poland and the Ukraine next summer.
But in the crazy life of the world’s most marketable man, could anyone really rule out the possibility of him finally winning the MLS, making a triumphant return to the Premier League, potentially winning a trophy with Spurs, then waving an emotional goodbye to the Three Lions one final time, before making history by leading out Great Britain at the greatest show of all in the Olympic Stadium, merely two Tube stops from his childhood home?
Sometimes real life makes for a better story than even the best script.
Published with permission from Born Offside.