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From Marital Bliss to Hell of a Mess
by Paul Gardner, February 16th, 2009 11:46AM



I suppose there is such a thing as Beckham-fatigue. I don't mean his fatigue -- though we got a demonstration of that on Sunday, 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 one of his latest whines 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.



  1. Lloyd Elling
    commented on: February 17, 2009 at 10:25 a.m.
    Force Beckham to return...sit him on the sidelines or entry gates to sign not play him till his contract ends. Use him as a practice player against the players who will give everything to step on the field on game day. I love David hero!!!
  1. Scott Baxter
    commented on: February 17, 2009 at 11:35 a.m.
    If he doesn't play then Capello won't use him for the national side. and thats what should happen!
  1. Luis Lapeira
    commented on: February 17, 2009 at 12:49 p.m.
    What a lack of knowledge of soccer these guys have (including the writer). I mean Ronaldhino was in the same Beckham's situation recently and he decided to move to a team where he could really play. How can you be part of a team that play that innocent? (you do not know what is "playing innocent soccer" go to south america, africa, england, spain, central america and watch U13 players playing!!! ...80% of the U.S. soccer players are way innocent compared to those little kids). If you do not know about soccer, let me talk about a sport you guys know well. Take a look at the MLB. "What I'm pleased about is Major League Baseball seems to finally be taking this seriously, to recognize how big of a problem this is for the sport" Barack Obama (Feb 10, 2009). You have to recognize you have a problem to fix it and improve your working environment. Same with soccer. Beckham has discussed many times about the problems with soccer in the U.S. However, "he dislikes U.S. soccer" "He's being dismissive" are the only comments heard. of course "you can't see it". Because you don't know about soccer. Why Italy, Spain, and England have the best leagues in the world? Count their foreign players and you will find the answer! Italy has hundreds of foreign stars, same as Spain and England. Years ago, way back in history, they started as the U.S.: investors arrived and started to put money to bring great players. Cristiano Ronaldo is the player that young players in Trafford, North Region of England want to follow. We don't have money to bring Ronaldos here. Bring others. Who are the young players are going to follow here? Name them. Probably we have no more than 10 (!!) in the whole MLS league. In Spain, just Barcelona has more than 10!!! In Argentina, just Boca has around 8. What about another league which is not that strong? Junior in Barranquilla, Colombia has around 4 or 6 in the team (!!!) In worldwide soccer, 99% of the teams that do not invest in great players go down to the second division. So, teams like Boca, River, Palmeiras, America, Nacional, Liga, Junior, etc invest in great players to keep their teams among the best in their countries. Here in the U.S., 99% of the teams invest $17,000 to pay some players! They have 1 ~ 2 "players with names", but most of the teams have none .... That is ridi!!!! To succeed the U.S. Soccer must: - Block pessimists like this writer and others from writing in this type of online resources. They should find another space on Internet to suffer with their struggling mindset. We have to recognize what's the problem, work on that, work on that, and improve!!! - Look for ways to participate in more international cups in South America (i.e. Libertadores Cup where Mexico's teams are playing too). In business you network. In football you network by playing there, there and over there. - Bring more international players of great soccer level so the game is played like Britney Spears...mmm not that innocent (one can see how the game is played by teams here and innocent players out there). that way you can put people in the stadiums. - Of course, market/promote that! (Greatest marketing machines are here in the U.S. which is a strong advantage compare to most...sorry not most ... ALL the leagues in the world!!!) - Put a minimum cap of $50,000 at least. Young players should get paid at least $36,000 plus bonus. But $17,000? Is that player working as a volunteer in a nonprofit organization???? Let's be serious about football!!!! Schelotto, Angel, Beckham, Blanco and international players like them can lift the U.S. Soccer. Too bad writers like this just write about the negative, not about the positive.
  1. Luis Lapeira
    commented on: February 17, 2009 at 12:58 p.m.
    Let me explain you why the U.S. Soccer can turn itself in one of the best soccer experience in the world: 1 - Money. We will have -hopefully very soon- a strong economy. Brazil and other countries does not have that. 2 - Marketing. The best thinkers in Marketing strategies are here in the U.S. Brazil and other countries does not have that. 3 - Foundation. U.S. soccer has more than 12.000.000 of young soccer players playing in local parks. Brazil and other countries does not have that. 4 - Psychologists. U.S. has the best motivational speakers in the world! And soccer is all about player's internal motivation. Brazil and other countries does not have that. 5 - Postmodernism. Great thinkers that reject "NO" as an option and accept "Yes, we can". Sound like politics, but it was the "yes-we-can mindset that gave the Miami Heat the NBA Championship years ago. Brazil and other countries does not have that. If the U.S. Soccer is lead the right way, then we will see the captain of the U.S. soccer team lifting the World Cup very soon. I hope that would be my son! or your son.
  1. Luis Lapeira
    commented on: February 17, 2009 at 1:06 p.m.
    Brazil vs U.S. Years ago, Brazil had millions of kids in the streets playing soccer. and U.S. thounsands. Today both countries have millions of kids out there playing for fun. Years ago, Brazil's local teams train players to sell their rights in international markets, countries with the money to buy great players. That help Italy, England and Spain to turn their leagues into the best leagues in the world while Brazil's league saw their playing level moving down. However, still some good players are born there and are sold to international leagues. Today, U.S. have local team that train players to ... mmm ... to let them go anywhere but staying in soccer. Still, US have the power to buy great players as Italy, England and Spain. Can we have the greatest marketing machines they have in Italy, England or Spain? Yes, we have the greatest marketing machines in place. Let's use them.

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