On Beckham, European Arrogance and LA’s Allure…

The New Year is here and with it, a wide open transfer window.  And while the list of smart acquisitions and shock buys is just now beginning to take shape, most had assumed one man had been waiting for so long for the window to open he had fogged up the glass.  It turns out that this may not have been the case.  At all.

Since September, with David Beckham’s 5-year contract to LA Galaxy nearing its conclusion, several Europe-based clubs had openly expressed interest in the former England international’s services.  At 36 and no longer hiding the chronic back injury that had nagged him throughout his MVP-worthy 2011 season, it was widely believed that Beckham would jump at the chance to end his playing days donning the crest of a top-flight European club.

But a jump back across the pond wouldn’t be a charity move. Any European club soliciting Beckham’s services would be motivated by the desire to obtain a veteran presence and depth in the last half of a 2011/12 campaign, especially for team a point or two from relegation or the glories of continental competition.  And although Beckham would fight hard and long for a continued starter’s role, the reality is that many of his callers expect him to provide crucial off-the-bench support.  And to top it off, even as Beckham’s field prowess would earn him a spot on many a roster, netting worldwide headlines and unprecedented jersey sales wouldn’t have hurt, either.

Of the numerous clubs jockeying their offers, Qatari-owned Paris Saint Germaine was the hands-down favorite.  Part of the nouveau riche of the European club scene, PSG’s new benefactors  made no bones of their intentions to assemble a squad capable of bringing home the silverware, no expense spared.

And, from all accounts, Beckham was part of that equation.

With an 18-month deal paying out at over $1-million per month, it was hard to see Beckham turning a deal like that down, storied French club or not.  While Los Angeles has the second-highest payroll in the league, the kind of salary being offered by PSG could not be matched for any number of reasons, the chief of which being the simple fact that MLS is a business, first and foremost.  This was a known factor. Los Angeles – while theoretically being able to compete in a bidding war for the man they helped to rejuvenate – are no fools. An overpriced diamond is still overpriced. And so, the thinking went, LA would have to let their prized possession go.

And if money weren’t enough, it was a European club offering it. Game. Set. Match. The deal was all but done. PSG insisted to French media, on a near-daily basis, that Beckham’s arrival was but a matter of time. Once Beckham had finished with les incompetents, to borrow from the opening scene of “Home Alone,” he’d be gnawing on a tasty baguette in no time (oh, a man can dream.) Hell, to get ready, it was widely reported that 20,000 PSG “Beckham” jerseys had been rush-ordered via Nike.

And so, the anticipation of the PSG fans grew. LA faithful on the other hand,while in lockstep with the Galaxy’s march through the playoffs, nevertheless steeled themselves for the possibility of a Beckham-less 2012. The media – French, British and, shamefully, American – chattered about and clamored for the latest lead.  And as always, the pundits pundited about how great the American fieldtrip had been for the sport and dreamt with baited breath the day they’d get to once again see David Beckham take to the field in a Champions League match.

But the subject of the hype remained coolly indifferent to the storm building around him, his attention focused on helping guide his present club through the gauntlet that is MLS Playoffs and onward to their third MLS Cup. Beckham’s cool and coy answers whenever asked about his future were seen as coming from an elder statesman sensitive to the fragile egos of his current employer. Sure, he didn’t owe them anything, they thought, but that Beckham sure is classy, isn’t he? And come December, that classiness will be where it belongs – the City of Lights.

And then December came. And no official move was announced.

But that was okay. The French crowds decided to start the party anyway.  The conclusion was inevitable.  PSG brass, Euro pundits, Euro fans – everyone repeated the line that Beckham could never resist an offer to move to Paris.  And certainly not for $1 million dollars a month! It WAS happening!

But then January came… and this happened instead:  Beckham said no.

So what happened? How could Beckham, as European as they come, have said no to Paris! Paris!?! How could PSG – and European fans in general – have been so terribly misled?

The answer is simple: European Arrogance.

This isn’t the same European Arrogance that tells you your American cuisine sucks, your American coffee sucks, and your American sex sucks (in non-appreciable ways.) No, this Arrogance boiled down to money. As in they have it; Americans do not. For the last decade, the almighty Euro has reigned supreme. Money trumps club loyalty (see Tevez), it trumps the comfort of familiar confines (see Tevez), and it trumps one’s familial bonds (see… Tevez.) In fact, sporting concepts such as honoring the terms of one’s contract and deing deferrential to the team that employs you – traits slowly receding from the American psyche as well – haven’t existed in Europe for some time.

(Hell, when Oguchi Onyewu offered to play for AC Milan for a year, free of charge, to make up for his year spent recovering from injury, there were two distinct reactions, each housed on different sides of the pond: American fans’ tone was, “Good for you, doing what’s right;” Euro fans’ tone was more akin to, “WTF is wrong with you, ya daft fool?”)

That Beckham would opt out of a lucrative contract to join a famous French squad never entered into the European conversation. If anything, if Beckham were to say no, it would most certainly because he had reached terms with another European club.

But certainly – most definitely – he would never stay in Los Angeles. They don’t have the one thing those Europeans have in spades: Unlimited cash money.

But as of this writing, only one other club has maintained contact with Beckham’s camp. Galaxy have made no bones about wanting to retain Beckham’s services and that they, short of opening an unlimited credit line in his name, are willing to craft as creative as a contract as they can to do it. The negotiations – what little have been speculated and leaked – are not aiming to make Beckham a highly paid-for commodity… they aim, through rumored offers of executive office and profit sharing, to make David Beckham a well-compensated member of the AEG family.

Besides, Los Angeles, in Beckham’s own words, has become his kids’ home. His wife reportedly loves it here. And, as this writer will attest to as he edits this entry on a (sucky American) coffeeshop patio well after sundown, it ain’t a bad place to live. Accusations of a cultureless cesspool be damned, this is a city were world-famous superstars share the same air and sidewalks as common-folk on a daily basis. It ain’t no thing. In fact, Los Angeles was created for (and on the backs of) people like David Beckham.

Los Angeles is a natural home for people like David Beckham and it looks like, after a sometimes-temultuous five years, he may be coming around to that realization.

This doesn’t suggest that Beckham has said yes to entering into a new contract with Los Angeles.  There could very well be a dark-horse suitor out there – or, as unlikely as it may be, Beckham could be considering retirement altogether.

Whatever the case, the absence of European Arrogance has led Los Angeles to not do the one thing Paris has succeeded at doing during this time of uncertainty: look like fools.


Posted on 01/09/2012, in Culture & Style, Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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