The world’s most famous soccer player has signed a new two-year deal with the L.A. Galaxy. David Beckham, 36, is effectively ending his playing career stateside in Major League Soccer, though he certainly harbors an ambition to represent Team Great Britain during the 2012 Olympics in his home city of London.
Truth be told, Beckham’s re-signing had become one of the worst-kept secrets in soccer over recent weeks once he decided that he wasn’t interested in moving to France to play for Paris Saint-Germain, despite the team’s Qatari owners supposedly offering Becks a lucrative deal at roughly $12 million a year.
“This was an important decision for me,” Beckham said in a statement. “I had many offers from clubs from around the world, however, I’m still passionate about playing in America and winning trophies with the Galaxy.”
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Beckham shocked the sporting world when he joined the Galaxy on a five-year deal in 2007, departing Spanish giants Real Madrid. In typical Beckham fashion, he dramatically delivered a trophy right at the end of his contract, as the team won the MLS Cup last November. The two-time MLS All-Star has thus far scored 11 goals and had 31 assists in 74 games with the LA Galaxy. By all accounts, last season was easily his best during an injury-stricken (and somewhat fractious) five years for the Galaxy.
“I’ve seen first-hand how popular soccer is now in the States and I’m as committed as ever to growing the game here,” Beckham commented on his deal. “My family and I are incredibly happy and settled in America and we look forward to spending many more years here.”
Perhaps reading between the lines, we can parse that last remark to point to clues about the family’s future. Victoria Beckham’s fashion career has got off to a highly encouraging start, and Brand Beckham — we must also include Simon Fuller, Beckham’s business partner and manager, in the decision-making process — has presumably decided that Los Angeles offers better marketing opportunities compared to the French capital. The prospect of a return to England’s Premier League had also been mooted, but Beckham is pretty much guaranteed his place for the Galaxy, whereas the more competitive European leagues would have arguably used him more as an impact substitute.
Many so-called experts were ready to call time on Becks’ career and would have surely tried to assess the impact he’s had on soccer in the U.S. if he had called it a day. For now, the eulogies will have to wait until next year at the earliest. From this observer’s perspective, soccer hasn’t come close to usurping the major three American sports – football, baseball and basketball. But Major League Soccer has gone from only having 12 sides in 2006 to 19 teams now. Plus, the average attendances have risen and, impressively, nine soccer-specific grounds have been built. And from an international perspective, had the U.S. side managed to see off Ghana during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, a semi-final berth wouldn’t have been beyond them.
And don’t rule out Beckham retaining a significant interest in the sport stateside once he does truly call it quits. A source told ESPN that one option Beckham retained in his new deal was the opportunity to purchase an MLS franchise. The next generation of American soccer players – and have no doubt, this sport is here to stay – may be bending it like Beckham for quite some time.
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