By Paul Gardner
I would have thought -- I'd bet most people would have thought -- that when you pay an athlete astronomical sums for his services, you get to tell him when he must make himself available, no?
Not when his name’s David Beckham, it seems. Here you have the Los Angeles Galaxy, or maybe it’s AEG, paying DB something like $6.5 million a year, yet it seems always to be DB who calls the shots.
For four years, four almost farcical years, we’ve watched as Beckham has decided that he wants to play in this or that or the other game for England, that he wants to go on loan to AC Milan, almost that he will play for the Galaxy when he damn well feels like it, and that he’ll be the one who tells everyone else when he’s fit to play.
So we’ve had four years of intermittent appearances, never a full season, never a fully fit Beckham. And while he’s been playing the superstar, the attitude of his paymasters has been one of exemplary sycophancy. Whatever David wants, David gets. The Galaxy, apparently, has been totally at David’s Beckham-call.
Nor is this comedy-routine over yet. Long after everyone else has grown thoroughly sick of his tedious and self-centered pursuit of more England caps and perhaps a place on the 2014 England World Cup team, Beckham continues his toadying to coach Fabio Capello.
So this winter, after his abortive -- but I must admit, quite impressive -- efforts on behalf of England’s World Cup bid, he pops up again in England, this time sniffing around the gates of Tottenham Hotspur’s White Hart Lane stadium seeking to get signed on for yet another foreign loan.
Considering that the previous loan spell, with AC Milan, ended up with Beckham nursing a snapped Achilles’ tendon and sitting out for five months, the proper response from the Galaxy ought to have been an indignant Are you kidding?
At one point it did look as though the Galaxy was, finally, putting an end to Beckham’s globetrotting. It actually said No. Or seemed to be saying No. It was “fully expecting he [Beckham] reports with the rest of his Galaxy teammates in late January for the upcoming season.”
Despite that, a loan deal was clearly being negotiated. It didn’t happen -- not because the Galaxy wanted Beckham back in L.A. where he belongs, but apparently because the Galaxy realized that one busted tendon was quite enough, so the insurance payments became an issue.
But the failed loan deal did not mean the return of Beckham to the USA. Instead, Beckham would train with Spurs -- and would not report back to the Galaxy until three weeks after the start of its preseason training.
AEG president Tim Leiweke would have us believe that this is a triumph for him and the Galaxy: “I am the one that made the decision in asking David to come back and play a full season in MLS ...” -- an astonishing attempt to parade weakness as firmness. What on earth is Leiweke doing asking Beckham to get back where he should be, when he should be telling him?
So the Galaxy embarrassed itself by backing down. Why did they reverse themselves? Oh, you can put that down to another business decision. Leiweke has recently revealed that AEG had encouraged Beckham to go to Tottenham because of a relationship with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy.
What sort of relationship would that be? There is a brand new stadium nearing completion in East London -- it will be the main athletics stadium during the 2012 Olympic Games. Once they’re over, the stadium is up for grabs. Two London Premier League clubs have expressed interest in making it their future home -- West Ham United, a genuine East London club, and Spurs, whose home territory has always been North London.
There is a third interested party: AEG, which sees the stadium as an ideal venue for rock concerts. Hence the “relationship” with Spurs. This looks like a real estate deal.
Not that it is being presented as such -- it has been dressed up as a good soccer deal for the Galaxy. But that is a flimsy pretext. You can be sure things are at their flimsiest when the words describing them get longer and more pretentious. So AEG and Spurs have created a “strategic alliance” that in some as yet unexplained way will benefit the Galaxy.
Strong rumors circulated yesterday that West Ham is the favorite to get the stadium. The rumors were speedily denied by the Olympic Park Legacy people, who have the final word; their decision will be announced on Friday.
Should West Ham win the rights to the stadium, and assuming that the Galaxy doesn’t then go into a deep sulk and call everything off, we may well get the alliance with Spurs anyway. We have experienced quite a few of these link-ups or alliances or partnerships between American and foreign pro clubs -- and I cannot recall a single one of them that has had any noticeable effect on the American end of things. In particular, the oft-repeated promise of an “exchange” of players seems never to happen.
If there were to be such an exchange, you can be sure it would involve the foreign club sending players it does not rate highly, maybe even wants to unload, while snapping up in return the most promising of the Americans.
What, then, can Spurs -- a team that hasn’t won a major trophy in 20 years (no, I do not count the Football League Cup) -- bring to the Galaxy? We saw the team here last summer -- not bad, not great, rather ordinary really.
Do they have marvelous new training and coaching methods? Are they ready to impart some new infallible tactical knowledge? Of course not. I doubt whether AEG would feel that Spurs knows more about marketing. I also doubt that Bruce Arena needs any help from London on the coaching front. There is also the glaringly obvious fact, which should not be unknown to Leiweke and the folks at AEG, that the Brits have not had any worthwhile ideas about the playing of soccer for at least 50 years.
Good job with this article.
2 good points, David Beck_Ham (DB) sucks and the English have not had any ideas for the last ...60 years and they slowing the development of soccer in America.
Wake up America!!!
Daniel sucks not David. What could American soccer possibly offer in the way of training that shows an advantage of an English Premier team? that would be nothing.
Shame on the author for taking his frustrations with mgmt out on David. He is not self centered in his pursuit to play on his national team. Do we call any American players who want to be on the team and actively pursue this dream toadying fools? No - why does it apply to David then.
LAG has gotten exactly what it paid for from David - media rights to the most prolific athlete in the world. David cannot carry a whole team on his very wide, capable shoulders (or feet) despite America's belief that he should be able to. The designated player rule puts players that exist on an entirely different playing field surrounded by freshman who are paid mere fractions by comparison. It doesn't take a business major to see that is not going to work.
American soccer is all about physicality and fitness, not passing accuracy which the English game excels in or the fluidity found in the Spanish leagues.
Realize that David is here to draw attendance and fans but not to save American soccer. It's going to take a lot more than David to do that!
Speaking of alliances, or partnerships with overseas teams, I believe Tottenham already has such a relationship with the San Jose Earthquakes. At least such appeared to be the case when they came to San Jose last summer for a friendly match. The Quakes home office proudly displays pictures and pennants touting the virtues of Spurs. They may have been taken down once Spurs betrayed their trust by hooking up with the Galaxy. May be a simple as such agreements have a short term time clause built in...like tomorrow.
Like a lot of high paid executives who make really dumb decisions, and then try to 'spin' them, AEG president Tim Leiweke does NOT have a reputation as being very smart.
"There is also the glaringly obvious fact, which should not be unknown to Leiweke and the folks at AEG, that the Brits have not had any worthwhile ideas about the playing of soccer for at least 50 years."
What's so wrong with set, kick run?
With all the money they spent on Beckham we could have establish 10 soccer programs in our inner cities. Inner city soccer is where the future for US soccer lies. Not in suburbia USA. Suburbia USA is to fogged up with crazy parents, day care soccer programs, and money hungry coaches. The inner city is PURE and UNTAPPED. Why because there is no $$$$$$ just kids who are hungry for something good in their lives. The Beckham scenario is again another example of non soccer people making soccer decisions in the US. Before we can have real change in the US. We need to have soccer people making soccer decisions for the good of the game. Meanwhile what we get in is more dog and pony shows and smoke n mirrors. The US needs meat and potatoes and not bullcr@@. We need to create a NEW SPARTA for soccer in the US and those players are waiting in the HOODS of America for the NEW SPARTA.
Karen you should get a clue. They pay DB to play and not just to put fans in the seats. Not to mention he needs to be playing to put fans in those seats. He has played approximately 50% of Galaxy games since being on the team. He should learn from fellow DPs about commitment. Landon Donovan, Thiery Henry, Rafa Marquez and JPA have shown that they understand who is paying their salaries and what that pay is for maybe it is time for Mr. Beckham to understand that too. He cannot help raise the game in this country while sitting on his arse in the bleachers at White Hart Lane.