By Ridge Mahoney
If this is January, there must be a pending loan deal for David Beckham. And as such, there's all manner of hue and cry about whether he should stay or go.
Though a few clubs have passed on the opportunity, not so Tottenham Hotspur. Manager Harry Redknapp is on the record about fielding Beckham for two months, give or take, and if such a move sparks a blizzard of orders for Spurs/Beckham jerseys, MLS and its fans know well how that game is played.
It’s hard to see how a few well-timed appearances between now and mid-March, when he’d return -- supposedly -- to the Galaxy could appreciably aid Spurs’ quest to qualify for the Champions League and perhaps even lift the Premier League trophy. But right now, Redknapp has Spurs riding so high he, and they, can do no wrong. If Harry believes it, how true it must be!
On the field, Becks been a peripheral figure for the Galaxy; in his fifth MLS campaign, which he’ll start at age 35, why would this change if he goes on loan? It won’t. If anything, two months of Premier League play could sharpen him up to start the MLS season in the best shape he’s ever been at that point in the year.
And if he gets injured, again, well, aside from humanitarian concerns, so what? He can’t be counted on as an everyday starter anyway, and there would be contingency plans aplenty because of his age and recent history of injuries.
Three years ago, his healthy presence at the start of the MLS season under former head coach Ruud Gullit didn’t propel the Galaxy to success. His five goals (tied for third on the team) and 10 assists (tops) in 25 games were widely derided. Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle combined for 35 goals but a porous defense doomed the Galaxy to spectator status in the postseason. David’s fault? Hardly.
All this talk of “commitment” to the Galaxy makes me laugh. He’s committed to play for the team to the best of his ability, which he has, and remember, he buckled under pressure from the league and ESPN to take the field when he shouldn’t have against Chelsea in his Galaxy debut.
That he worked like hell to get fit in time to play last September rather than ride out the season on his butt is how his “commitment” should be measured, not by how many sprints he runs or crosses he hits at the Home Depot Center practice fields between now and mid-March.
Now, you can take issue with him playing for Tottenham after declaring he’d “never” play for an English team not named Manchester United. But ultimately, a player’s commitment is to his career and how long he can sustain the ride, not who pays the freight or waves to the train as it passes by. In the parlance of professional sports, as well as politics and corporate boardrooms, “never” isn’t nearly as long a time as it seems.
The Galaxy can step in to nullify any loan, rightfully citing injury concerns. Yet it could also bank a loan fee to soften the blow of his $5.5 million salary, and since money was the primary reason for signing him in the first place, staying the course and giving its marquee superstar what he wants -- if he indeed is willing to endure “betraying” his United heritage -- isn’t all that outrageous.
He may indeed still "love" United, but love is love, and business is business. As much as he is a player, Beckham is a business, and both he and the Galaxy (aka AEG) understand that.