David Beckham vs Landon Donovan: Celebrity vs Football Professional

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While David Beckham has waged his campaign to leave the LA Galaxy in the English and Italian press, his fellow, on loan, under contract LA Galaxy mate Landon Donovan has very notably said nothing. It is no secret in US Soccer circles that Donovan would like to see his current loan stint at Bayern Munich become a permanent transfer, but unlike Beckham he’s been polite, courteous and unfailingly professional.

Unlike Beckham who never indicated to the Galaxy his desire to leave the club prior to his very public announcement in front of the assembled British press in Glasgow last month, Donovan is believed to have made his desire to move abroad clear to the Galaxy’s top brass. Yet Donovan and his agent have been silent and again professional throughout the ongoing process.

Any inquiry I’ve made about Donovan’s status has been met with a polite but stern, “no comment.” Beckham’s handlers on the other hand have tried their able best to spin the ongoing soap opera of their making in a way that reflects positively on AC Milan’s on loan midfielder.

Perhaps in Britain campaigning through the media, leaving your current contract employer in the dark about your intentions and throwing a public fit when things don’t go your way are considered proper football and career etiquette. But in the United States, highly paid athletes who use the press as a campaign tool to humiliate their employers are not treated with deference.

Maybe David Beckham should take a cue from his Galaxy team mate and show more restraint. But this would be nearly impossible for an “athlete” of Beckham’s stature whose entire being as a Footballer has been based on celebrity and image.

Beckham himself badly underestimated the resolve of the Galaxy as well as American soccer supporters to not be manipulated in this ongoing saga. His comments about football in the United States being ten years behind a European standard have not been lost on most MLS supporters.

It may have simply been a slip of the tongue, but more likely it was Beckham being Beckham, a celebrity for years pampered in the European press who has never recently been made to face the consequences of his words. While Becks was at one time persona non grata in England after the 1998 World Cup loss to Argentina where a young Beckham was foolishly sent off, he’s been virtually untouchable since his 2001 performance against Greece in qualifying.

Sir Alex Ferguson learned after the release of the infamous tapes in 2004, that someone honored by his Queen is not immune from press criticism when it conflicts with the celebrity charm of David Beckham. But Beckham has underestimated the attitude of American soccer supporters and should he return to the Galaxy he should be anticipating a very rude reception.

(Photo at top of page courtesy of the AP)

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