David Beckham (C) of Los Angeles Galaxy celebrates with his sons after the Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup final against Houston Dynamo in Carson, the United States, Dec. 1, 2012. Galaxy won 3-1 to win the MLS Cup Championship. Beckham will leave the team after the match. [Photo: Xinhua/Zhao Hanrong]
By Stuart Wiggin
David Beckham has bid farewell to LA Galaxy and Major League Soccer (MLS) with a dream finish, as he lifted the MLS Cup in his third cup final in 4 years after beating Houston Dynamo 3-1. Beckham's sights have now turned to Europe as he looks to finish off his career closer to home, with reported interest from AS Monaco and Paris St. Germain. However, Beckham will be making his decision not only from a purely footballing perspective, but also as a brand ambassador; namely for himself.
Beckham joined LA Galaxy six years ago in 2007 as part of an experiment designed to cash in on Beckham's likeness and fame which he had built for himself across Europe and much of Asia. It was hoped that Beckham could bring luster to the Galaxy team and possibly to MLS as a whole. At the time, many thought that the league was trying to build its image around Beckham, and it appeared as if the MLS had positioned itself as a retirement league; rather like the Chinese Super League has been painted by foreign media following the notable arrivals of Drogba and Anelka.
However, the Beckham experiment hit rocky ground early on as Beckham succumbed to injuries. Loan spells at AC Milan which ate into the MLS season and comments from fans and teammates made it look as if the Beckham investment had been a bust. But just as he came good in England after being reviled by English fans for his sending off against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup, so too did Beckham come good in the US. Many England fans, including myself, hold a soft spot for Beckham thanks to his patriotic displays and his love of playing in an England shirt.
LA Galaxy fans have no doubt experienced this same feeling as Beckham came to devote himself to the team both on and off the field. MLS Commissioner Don Garber praised Beckham's contribution to the game in the US, noting "There's arguably not a soccer fan on this planet that doesn't know the LA Galaxy and Major League Soccer, and David played a significant role in helping us make that happen. He was an unbelievable ambassador for the league, for the Galaxy."
USA Today posted an article stating that Beckham "conquered the USA" during his time with the Galaxy. Though this report may be more hyperbole than truth, it cannot be denied that Beckham helped to spread word of the MLS and the Galaxy outside of the United States. While it has been argued that interest in the league was already increasing prior to Beckham's arrival, and that the league's expansion from 13 teams to 19 would have probably happened anyway, Beckham himself has stated, "When I decided to come here, I think I raised a little bit of interest, and I hope that's what I've done. If that's the single thing that I've done, then great.
But I think the foundations are there now in this league. It's a 17-year-old league and the foundations are great. It will continue to grow."
Nonetheless, David Beckham's LA Galaxy chapter has now ended and he will now look to embark on the final one of his storied career. At the age of 37, it is debatable as to whether Beckham will be able to compete at a consistently high level in the world's most competitive leagues. However, this hasn't stopped clubs like Queen's Park Rangers and West Ham pursuing Beckham's services. Arguably, Beckham's brand will likely have a greater impact than his football skills but he certainly still has something to offer despite his lack of pace.
It is widely believed that he will be making his way to France; a suitable location for both him and his pop-star turned fashion designer wife Victoria. However, AS Monaco, the team thought to be in the front running to sign Beckham play in the second tier of French football, Ligue 2, following relegation from Ligue 1 in 2011. It is hard to think that Beckham would ever play in the second tier of English football, the Championship; so why would he bother doing so in France?
Firstly, the location certainly has more glamour than any of the towns in the second tier of the English football league, providing a perfect fit with the image of the Beckhams. Secondly, the team has a long history, Champion's League pedigree, and is managed by a world-class manager in the form of Claudio Ranieri. Clearly, Beckham could be part of a compelling storyline; helping a team regain its top flight status after its recent fall from grace. Thirdly, AS Monaco's billionaire Russian businessman owner, Dmitry Rybolovlev, will be able to provide Beckham with a lucrative final pay-day. On top of all this is the fact that the team is already sitting atop of Ligue.
It appears as if a spell at Monaco would allow Beckham to maintain his status while building upon his success. If he were serious about playing at the highest level possible, he would accept an offer from a team in the English Premier League; regardless of their league position. Unfortunately, Beckham previously stated that he would not want to play for any other English team other than Manchester United. Ultimately, the conditions and benefits of the proposed move to Monaco may be too hard to resist, regardless of who comes knocking on Beckham's door.