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From Marital Bliss to Hell of a Mess
by Paul Gardner, February 16th, 2009 7AM



I suppose there is such a thing as Beckham-fatigue. I don't mean his fatigue -- though we got a demonstration of that yesterday, with poor David sitting disconsolately on the sideline in the San Siro, watching his beloved Milan lose to Inter, and looking, well, fatigued. As he should. After all the guy is 33 years old (yes, yes, I know -- his teammate Paolo Maldini is 41!).

Of course, I have enormous sympathy for David. Well, no that's a lie. I don't have enormous sympathy for him. In fact, now I come to ponder the matter seriously, I don't have any sympathy at all for him.

Because of my fatigue, that is, because of my Beckham-fatigue. Enough is enough, and we've had more than enough over the past few weeks. Beckham this, Beckham that, Beckham the other, will he play, will he sit, will he stay, will he return, will he get another cap, will he beat Bobby Moore's record for England ... ad nauseam.

Hey, maybe it's Beckham-nausea and not Beckham-fatigue that I'm suffering from. I've OD-ed on Beckham. Of that I'm sure -- but it's not my fault, I've been forced into this situation! The guy has been inescapable lately, smiling nicely, being wildly overpraised for average AC Milan performances, and making dismissive remarks about the Galaxy and American soccer in general.

Does he realize he's being dismissive? Maybe, but the impression is that he doesn't care anyway. He expects to get his way, he expects to sign for Milan, he expects that a way will be found to avoid an awkward situation when -- hold your breath, guys! -- he might have to honor the obscene contracts he signed with MLS and with the Galaxy.

I have his latest whine in front of me, right here: "I've said I want to stay here and if I do go back then it will be a bit difficult." I suppose it will. It's never exactly a hilarious situation when a player resents being with a club -- especially when he's supposed to be their main guy.

Difficult it will be. Should it happen. But David may not chuck his weight around like an icon, he may not dominate the tabloid headlines with saucy episodes -- but he does expect to get his way: "Hopefully things will go the way I want them."

No doubt they will. Do the Galaxy and Bruce Arena really want to welcome back a player who doesn't want to be anywhere near Los Angeles?

I can't see it. But then, I can't really believe in the ultimatums and deadlines that MLS and the Galaxy are going on about. They sound like empty face-savers to me. The fact is that both MLS and the Galaxy have been, and continue to be, outmaneuvered by AC Milan. They have been made to look utterly foolish as they try to convince the world that they have the upper hand in the negotiations. But it is all bluster and hot air, as they demand the return of a player who doesn't want to return -- a player whom, they must know, cannot now be worth much to MLS, a player of negative value on the publicity front. If Beckham now praises American soccer, he sounds hypocritical and no one is going to believe him; if he criticizes it, well that's exactly the opposite of what he's being paid the big bucks to do.

It's way too late for the Galaxy to start laying down the law to Beckham, when leaning over backward has been its almost permanent posture for the past two years as they have granted David his every wish. The only thing the Americans can hope for now is to force a satisfactory financial settlement out of Milan and from Beckham and his clan.

I haven't mentioned the soccer. We've all stopped talking about Beckham's wonderful crosses and his diabolical free kicks -- because they've ceased to be part of the circus. Maybe they were only ever a sideshow, anyway. Publicity was what was wanted. By that measure, this ongoing tug-of-war with Milan might even be pleasing to MLS and the Galaxy. Keeps the league and the club in the news, after all -- and during the offseason.

We're surely headed for one of those saccharine endings where everyone thanks everyone else for being so nice and accommodating, and they talk about "moving on." A curtain is quickly drawn to conceal that fact that someone has been quietly, but right royally, screwed. That will be MLS and the Galaxy. Maybe they really did expect that the Beckham-Galaxy pairing was going to be a heavenly marriage. What they got was a hell of a mess.


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