|Beckham To MLS|
Eleven years after it was launched, Major League Soccer has come of age.
The announcement that David Beckham is to sign for the Los Angeles Galaxy has instantly put the league on the international map. While the 2007 season may kick off in April, it will come to life in July, when the worldâ€™s most recognizable footballer lands on the West Coast.
Beckham has agreed a five-year deal that could earn him around $250 million â€“ almost $1 million per week â€“ but this is good business for everyone, from the Galaxy to Beckham to the Melrose Avenue boutiques that can look forward to accepting Posh Spice's credit cards.
Galaxy jerseys are likely to become one of the biggest sellers in the world as Beckhamâ€™s army of fans â€“ particularly in Asia â€“ rush to buy his latest colours, while Galaxy games will be broadcast around the world, opening up the league and its players to new markets.
Beckham becomes the first player to take advantage of the new MLS rules allowing clubs to break the salary cap â€“ Beckhamâ€™s deal obliterates it â€“ to sign one â€œdesignated player,â€ and there can be no better standard-bearer if the league wants to attract a new influx of international talent.
Indeed, in the hours after Beckham signed, FC Dallas manager Steve Morrow confirmed he was working on a deal to bring former Holland midfielder Edgar Davids from Tottenham to Texas.
According to reports, the structure of Beckhamâ€™s deal is complex â€“ his salary of around $10 million per year is only a fifth of the total value, which also takes into account image rights, sponsorship deals and a stake in the Galaxy franchise itself.
But unlike when Pele, Franz Beckenbauer et al signed for the New York Cosmos in the 1970s, this deal will pay for itself through the hype Beckham will attract.
In making the move, Beckham has fulfilled a long-standing pledge to finish his career in the U.S., but crucially for the league, he has done it at the age of 31 â€“ meaning he still has 2-3 seasons in him before age really begins to catch up.
It is easy to think that Beckham is washed up already. Dropped from the England team after resigning the captaincy in the wake of a poor World Cup, Beckham has spent much of the Spanish season so far on the bench.
But he was still wanted by the club, and left the offer of a new two-year deal on the table to make this move. Beckham showed he can still be effective at the World Cup, and there were also a queue of suitors in the Premiership and elsewhere in Europe who would have gladly signed him up.
Instead, Beckham has embarked on what he believes is a long-term project.
"I don't want to go out to America at 34 and people saying 'He's only there to get the money',â€ said Beckham, who already owns a training centre for young soccer players in Los Angeles. "Soccer in America is the biggest played sport up to a certain age. That's where I want to take (the game) to another level.
"I think potentially it can go higher in America than anyone can believe.
"There are so many great sports in the USA. There are so many kids playing American football and basketball. Soccer is huge all around the world except in America, and that's where I want to make a difference with the kids.â€
The vision Beckham and the Galaxy share is to make Los Angeles the first MLS â€œSuper Clubâ€. Right now, the only place the club sits alongside the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United is on Beckhamâ€™s CV, but the ambition to be recognised on the world stage is there.
That is for the long term. In the short term, it is MLS itself that benefits the most.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber gushed over Beckhamâ€™s decision to join the league.
â€œDavid Beckham is a global sports icon who will transcend the sport of soccer in America," he said. "His decision to continue his storied career in Major League Soccer is testament to the fact that America is rapidly becoming a true 'soccer nation' with Major League Soccer at the core.â€
Beckhamâ€™s arrival in Los Angeles â€“ even though it comes midway through the season in July â€“ will make the Galaxy preseason favourites to win back the MLS Cup crown they lost this season.
Whether or not the arrival of one player â€“ no matter how big a name â€“ is enough to decide the destination of the title remains to be seen, but make no mistake â€“ this is a pivotal moment in MLS history.
|Last Updated ( Saturday, 13 January 2007 03:06 )|