Ageing icon for hire… but where will former England captain Beckham land next
00:29 GMT, 21 November 2012
David Beckham's announcement that the Major League Soccer Cup final on December 1 will be his last match for LA Galaxy created headlines around the globe.
Even after his five-and-a-half years in the States playing 'soccer' in a developing league, the world sat up and wondered what a 37-year-old footballer does to 'experience one last challenge'.
Clubs in Russia, China, Australia, South Africa and Brazil are hankering for his signature, as are Paris Saint-Germain, who have expressed interest before.
Centre of attention: Beckham will play his final game for LA Galaxy next month
Beckham is still box-office. Did he worry the big three – American football, basketball and baseball Definitely not. But he brought increased credibility and profile to a league still in its infancy.
As Tim Leiweke, chairman of entertainment giants AEG, who own Galaxy, said last year: 'David's brought a lot of heat, attention and buzz back to this organisation. There aren't many players in this sport who can do that.'
Brand Beckham: The former England captain announced his decision to leave LA Galaxy on Monday
BECKHAM'S IMPACT ON THE MLS
In 2006 — the year before Becks joined — the MLS total attendance was 2.98million. , this had more than doubled to 6.07m. In his first season, the average away attendance for LA Galaxy games jumped from 19,929 to 28,035. Their strip was adidas’s most popular shirt of 2007, with more than 300,000 sold.
Arguably, there is nobody else who could have done it. There are better, younger players, but nobody bar Beckham could have brought such attention.
When the former England captain jetted off into the footballing wilderness at 31 in 2007, he said he wanted to 'grow the world's most popular game in a country that is as passionate about its sport as my own'.
Followers of the 'world's most popular game', it's fair to say, laughed, wondering quite what it was about Beckham's 20million, five-year contract that had attracted him to the States.
Time's up: Beckham wants to 'experience one last challenge' before hanging up his boots
Where next for Becks
The A-League are desperate for more high-profile signings to follow the likes of Emile Heskey and Alessandro Del Piero. Seven of the 10 top-flight clubs have been linked with the midfielder.
The Becks factor would be a massive PR boost in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup finals and the 2016 Olympic Games.
Another country looking to promote their domestic competition. The signings of Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba show they mean business.
Paris St Germain
The money-bags French club thought they had signed Beckham 12 months ago after agreeing to pay him 670,000 a month but the deal was never signed.
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Could his last challenge be to try and take his hometown club to the Premier League
But Beckham's timing was significant.
He wasn't a washed-up old has-been: he was on his way to winning the
Spanish title with Real Madrid. There were two loan spells at AC Milan
and much flirtation with leaving Galaxy before winning his first MLS Cup
- his eighth league title in three countries – last November, but he
extended his deal for 12 months.
will leave a legacy if players move to the MLS in their 20s rather than
towards the end of their careers. Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane have
made the move and Frank Lampard still could with Galaxy having expressed
serious interest in the Chelsea midfielder.
commissioner Don Garber said: 'There is no doubt that MLS is far more
popular and important here and abroad than it was when David arrived. He
will always be an important part of our history.'
are increasing, with an average 18,807 fans at each game, but they come
from white, well-heeled families and Hispanic communities. This may
explain why the burgeoning popularity of soccer has not been translated
Galaxy agreed a
43m, 10-year deal to show their games on English and Spanish cable
channels in California but they are watched in only around 16,000 homes -
less than one per cent of the available audience.
The suggestion Beckham has achieved 'great things' on the field is an
exaggeration. He has been picked three times in the MLS All-Star XI and
could sign off with a second league title next weekend, but injuries and
loan spells have left him with insufficient playing time for it to be
Landmark arrival: Beckham has enjoyed five seasons with then Galaxy celebrating the MLS Cup in 2011 (below)
American Dream: Beckham has helped change the face of the MLS
Famous faces: The former England skipper meets US president Barack Obama
people wrong has been as much a part of Beckham's DNA as changing his
hairstyle and he looks set to do it again with one final 'challenge'.
'Retirement is not something I'm thinking of yet. I still feel I have
something left in me. I'd like to take on another challenge but what
that will be, I don't know,' said Beckham.
'Right now my focus is on the final. Once that's out of the way, we have an (exhibition) tour to deal with, and then it's Christmas, which we always spend in London, so I'll be there and I'll make the decision then.'
Start of it all: Beckham on loan at Preston North End in 1995
National service: Beckham made his England debut in 1996
Talent: Beckham was PFA's Young Player of the Year in 1997
Infamous: David Beckham sent off against Argentina at 1998 World Cup
Beckham wasn't specific about where
he might end up next, deflecting questions about every destination from
Australia and China to France and England.
While discussing his future in the most oblique terms, Beckham only confirmed he won't move to New York or any other MLS team.
however, that the 'challenge' will not be in Australia, despite the
interest of five A-League clubs. 'If David goes to Australia it will
only be on his holidays,' said a source close to the player.
whichever corner of the globe Brand Beckham lands in, the midfielder
will sign off in the States after playing a significant role in the
growth of soccer. After all, we're still talking about it.
Real deal: Beckham joined the Spanish giants in 2003
Champion: Beckham has won titles in England, Spain and America
Italian job: Beckham had two stints on loan at AC Milan
Family guy: Beckham with wife Victoria Beckham and sons (L-R) Cruz, Romeo and Brooklyn