In what I see as a move with more financial impact than on-field impact, AC Milan are courting another superstar whose best days are behind him, but who is still capable of packing a commercial punch. The latest move is to be a loan deal for LA Galaxy star David Beckham. Beckham’s season is over in the US and with he and his equally famous wife becoming more and more involved in the fashion industry, a move to Milan would make sense for both sides.
Part of the move is motivated by football ambition as Beckham has been told by England coach Fabio Capello that he must be playing regularly if he is to win his 108th cap against Spain in February. If Beckham does appear in that match, he will join Bobby Moore as England’s most capped outfield player.
Gabriele Marcotti has posted a great article on the potential move and the killer quote comes from Adriano Galliani, AC Milan’s managing director, who says: “Running a football club isn’t just about putting 11 men on the pitch and winning games, it’s about creating and sustaining excitement, filling stadiums, generating sponsorship, merchandising and marketing. It’s about having a bold idea.”
There is no doubt that Beckham’s popularity remains high. While his soccer skills have often been questioned (I personally rate him as a top player but not an all-time great in the vein of a Cruyff or Beckenbauer), there is no questioning his skills as an ambassador for his sport. He’s largely steered away from off-field problems and has always been polite, accommodating and even humble with fans and media alike. He certainly does not give the appearance of having an inflated sense of self like many other top superstars and that has certainly helped his commercial appeal.
At 33, many will question just what he can add to the AC Milan squad but he is an experienced European player and could be used as a starter for UEFA Cup matches should AC Milan advance to the next phase. He showed flashes of his old form this past season with the Galaxy but the team was lacking quality in more than one area and again missed out on the playoffs.
Los Angeles Galaxy boss Bruce Arena has been quoted in doubting how the loan of Beckham to AC Milan will be beneficial for the league or the Galaxy. I see it as keeping Beckham’s sporting profile high and giving MLS a slight boost in return. The perception, at least in the US, might be that if a player from MLS can fit into a giant club like AC Milan than the overall quality of the league is higher than most are giving it credit for. A bit of a stretch perhaps but that will certainly be part of the thinking behind this move.