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AEG and MLS should sell Beckham, now
by Ridge Mahoney, January 30th, 2009 10AM

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Gee, what a shock, David Beckham getting injured his just his third Serie A game on loan with AC Milan. Serves him right.

I mean, who could have foreseen a 33-year-old who labored with injuries and fatigue through his first season and a half in MLS and cut a backdoor deal to embarrass his current employers might pull up trying to keep pace in one of the world's toughest leagues?

Such a scenario certainly was postulated in this column and other places. He's not the spry young buck he thinks he is, capable of extensive club contributions while holding down a place in the England team. He's certainly in his element at AC Milan, where despite injuries that opened up a starting spot for him he's still surrounded by some fantastic players, which has always been the place for him to flourish.

"He's never been the best player on his own team," pointed out D.C. United general manager Kevin Payne a few months ago of his play for Manchester United, Real Madrid, England, and the Galaxy. "He's not the best player on his team now and he won't be at AC Milan, either."

Unfortunately, the supporting cast in Los Angeles didn't include more than one or two players capable of stopping the other team, and so frustrated he became that clandestine contacts with AC Milan were initiated and consummated without any prior knowledge of the Galaxy and MLS.

Regardless, let's hope he heals quickly and gets right back onto the field so MLS can sell him before the price drops to zero. Call that $1 million Milan is paying during the loan spell a down payment on an asset plummeting in value.

Before he signed with MLS two years ago, I wrote a story headlined "Becks Will Be A Bust in MLS," yet still, once the deal went down, I wanted it to work, for the sake of MLS and the image of American soccer. For a while it did, but now, MLS looks like a humdrum nonentity with Becks back on a big stage.

MLS tries to present itself as one of the top 10 leagues in the world, using average attendances and, of course, the presence of Beckham to buttress its claim. Time for a new poster child, I guess.

He's already left MLS and the Galaxy mentally and psychologically, assuming he was ever present in any manner other than physically, and certainly financially. His enthusiasm and zeal the past few weeks wearing the red-and-black only occasionally emerged while wearing the Galaxy colors -- other than a prickly disdain for match officials -- and since he can opt out of his five-year contract at the end of the MLS season anyway, the time to sell is now.

Clearly, he can still play at a high level, when healthy, if he wants to. He also wants to be in Milan. Case closed. Who's going to change his mind?

Even without the opt-out clause, at the end of the MLS season he'd have been able to buy out the remaining years of his contract, under a provision adopted by FIFA in the aftermath of Scottish player Andy Webster. After being prevented from discussing a transfer deal with Rangers and then benched, Webster won a FIFA ruling by which he secured his release. The rule permits players to leave a club three years after he signs a contract if he is younger than 28, and after two years if he is 28 or older. Webster joined English Premier League club Wigan Athletic and then went on loan to Bristol City.

The Webster Rule, in theory, can force a club and a player to agree on a transfer or at least a severance agreement. When a player's contract expires, he is free to negotiate his own deal, yet in most cases his international transfer certificate (ITC) is retained by his previous club. MLS still controls Beckham's rights but that situation lapses in October, so really, the only decision is how much the fee should be.

There's no way to calculate how much his departure will cost the Galaxy in terms of season-ticket sales, sponsorship deals, revenue-sharing projects, and offseason barnstorming tours, and those numbers probably wouldn't be germane to FIFA if MLS and AC Milan reached an impasse in negotiations.

If they wish, MLS and the Galaxy could go to court and claim Beckham's self-serving maneuverings constitute a breach of contract that cost them a ton of dough. But more likely any termination agreement will include a clause that the parties agree not to sue each other. FIFA is also notoriously averse to legal proceedings.

Most transfer prices are based on the remaining portion of the player's contract, which would be $5.5 million for 2009. Given the circumstances, MLS and AEG should accept twice that figure, which is about what Beckham earned in salary the past two seasons, say all the right things, shake hands, and move on.

Compared to the goose egg he'll be worth to MLS in October, that deal works for me.



0 comments

  1. commented on: January 30, 2009 at 10:15 a.m.
    I know that writers such as Ridge Mahoney make their money by stirring up controversy, but I hate them nonetheless. Beckham has been a blessing to MLS. He has packed the stadiums in which he plays for two years. Since going to AC Milan, he has scored two goals and played extensively for one of the world's premier clubs. Yet, here in the US, even the soccer writers can't lay off. I hope the Galaxy keep Becks. Seeing the looks on children's faces when they come to see him is priceless. He has never been THE premier player on his team. More than any other sport, soccer is a team game, and Becks plays within the team he is with. I hope the Galaxy can upgrade. I'm from Chicago, and Blanco is similar. Lay off Mahoney. MLS is doing just fine, and will continue its slow but steady progress up the ladder of soccer leagues. EPL it is not, but it's moving into the top 10 world leagues and has only more growth coming.

  1. Kent James
    commented on: January 30, 2009 at 10:35 a.m.
    I think Ridge has it right. That is not to dispute all the positive things Chet Young just posted about Beckham. MLS and the Galaxy should not get rid of Beckham because he has no talent, or because he's not done well for the MLS or the Galaxy. Beckham is clearly a classy player, and everyone praises his good attitude, workrate, professionalism, etc., but he is best when surrounded by players of the highest quality, which cannot be the case at LA. The MLS has come a long way, and continues to progress, but it simply does not have the payroll to get the kind of quality players that teams such as AC Milan have. That's not disrespecting the Galaxy, because even with their miniscule payroll, I bet LA could give AC a good game. The bigger problem is that Beckham still wants to play on soccer's main stage (Europe and for the English national team), and the Galaxy simply cannot help him do that. So Mahoney is suggesting that MLS and the Galaxy not try to fight that (inevitably losing) battle, but rather make the best of it, and get what they can while the market value for Beckham is high. Doing so will not devalue the league, but will all the Galaxy to spend money finding people who will be stars of the future and improve the overall quality of the team.

  1. Ron Newman
    commented on: January 30, 2009 at 10:43 a.m.
    Kevin Payne's comments should be "IN MY OPPINION" not as a statement of fact. I could not disagree more about Becks. Ridge - well your excuse is that you are a reporter even if you are a good one.

  1. Michael Tesla
    commented on: January 30, 2009 at 10:48 a.m.
    Serves him right? I hope you did not mean that. Beckhman may not be "in his prime" anymore but the man can still play. If he is good enough to start for AC Milan you would have to say he can still play. I think he has meant more to the MLS than just playing ability. The league is constantly in the news because of him. Attendance is up at Galaxy games home and away. Galaxy replica Beckham jerseys are a hot seller. Soccer kids know the Beckham name. Non-soccer people know the Beckhman name. All this brings attention to the league. Beckham may not have been able to lead the Galaxy to the playoffs last year but what one player on the planet could? As Chet stated above soccer is a team game.

  1. David Sirias
    commented on: January 30, 2009 at 4:14 p.m.
    Ridge, I'm a lawyer and sometimes your client pays you to try the case, even though things just don't feel right , you push ahead after explaining the risks. Well, here, I think LAG and MLS have to push through. The season ticket holders/ the tv people/sponsors are expecting Becks for at least another year. Anything short of that is likely disaster. In terms of pure football and the LAG, Landon Donovan is probably gone and it's too late to find TWO suitable star quality replacements. Knowing that Becks can opt out aftet his season, the best the LAG and MLS can do is probably lock in a transfer for peanuts with Milan for next season, renegotiate with Becks-- releasing him after this year, and perhaps get a few games with Milan on Tour, and an ownership committment from Becks for a present /future MLS Squad. Now that Becks is hurt, I wonder if Milan would even consider the above......He's in LA summer .... little doubt

  1. Scott Nelson
    commented on: January 30, 2009 at 4:53 p.m.
    Time for Beckham to go, and go quickly. Yes, he has made the US and foreign press take notice of MLS, but from day one, that attention and publicity has been split pretty equally between positive and negative. It was pretty clear from his actions last year, as he continually chose a place on England's bench to a place on the field for the Galaxy, that his commitment to the cause of "helping develop soccer in America" had severely waned, if it ever existed. Now he is making that lack of commitment clear with his words, too. His recent condescending remarks about MLS simply help confirm the entrenched sterotypes many Europeans, especially Brits, hold about soccer in this country. Beckham has so clearly not been focused on MLS that I think he owes AEG some money back, regardless of how many shirts he's sold (and by the way, as we eargerly anticipate the new MLS season here in Seattle, #23 Galaxy shirts are all on the bargain rack at the local soccer store, 40% off). Beckham is NOT the Pele of MLS. Not only was Pele a more talented and exciting player, but he was also infinitely more motivated to be here and fulfill that role of ambassador for a fledgling sports league. After all, he was in debt and needed the money! While $5 million a year is a lot of dosh for MLS, ol' Goldenballs probably has that much money in his change drawer at home. It's nothing to him, and it shows in his recent behavior. If Milan wants him, let him go. If he does come back, I hope the fans of MLS show him the same "respect" he's shown to the fans, the league, his team mates, and his employers lately.


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