I remember when David Beckham announced he was leaving Real Madrid not to somewhere in Europe but to MLS. Instant speculation from both fans and pundits alike cited the money as the deciding factor for his move, after all, why go to the league when you have offers from Europe’s elite?
In his presentation press conference with Alexi Lalas, Beckham discussed his motivation, to help further soccer in the U.S. and develop MLS. Now despite what you think about Beckham’s claims he deserved a chance to prove his words and become an asset to the league off the pitch. The issue is, I really fail to see how he’s done that.
Yes he’s appeared on talk shows like Ellen and Jay Leno and talked soccer but it’s always been as ‘David Beckham’ not ‘L.A. Galaxy’s David Beckham’. On the pitch he’s performed as he’s always done. He’s scored some of his trademark freekicks and an impressive half field goal. It wasn’t quite like the one he scored against Wimbledon all those years back but it was good nonetheless.
However the fact right now that he’s at Tottenham Hotspurs instead of L.A. Galaxy’s training camp is exactly what’s wrong with this move. This isn’t the first time it’s happened. In January 2009 he moved to AC Milan on loan. Like Tottenham this move was supposedly aimed at keeping Beckham’s fitness up but when his deal was extended to July meaning he’d miss the opening few months of the American season. The club’s fans were rightly annoyed. L.A. come first whether Beckham likes it or not. If it’s true that he regrets his move then he should hand in a transfer request.
When he finally made his return he received a fan backlash and the pressure told after a man seen as coolness personified snapped and confronted a fan in the crowd. This may have sparked the breaking point for Beckham because no sooner than the season had finished he was lining up a return to Milan in January.
The sad thing throughout this was he was rarely criticized for it. If anything, he was praised for wanting to play football, many ignoring the fact he regularly put Galaxy to the bottom of his priorities. It had stopped being about MLS and Galaxy. Beckham was putting number one first. With the World Cup approaching he wanted to play in his fourth consecutive competition but that dream was destroyed when he tore his achilles rather innocuously during a home game against Chievo Verona.
What was more surprising was the fact that all the media outlets focused on the fact he would miss the World Cup. There was no mention that for the second season in a row he would miss a considerable portion of MLS’s calendar. Now with a considerable layoff you would expect him to be using this time to promote the league right? Wrong, instead we saw a Sharpie commercial starring Beckham before he took up a motivational position on England’s bench in South Africa.
When his achilles finally healed he was able to return for the Galaxy in September of 2010. Despite a slow start to his return he would go onto score in the Supporter’s Shield. The season finished and with it began speculation of where Beckham would spend January. What came next was essentially Beckham talking to half a dozen EPL clubs over a short term loan that whiffed of desperation.
He eventually ended up at Tottenham but not as a player despite the club’s best efforts. He was purely training with them during MLS off-season. Tim Leiweke, the president of AEG, said they had vetoed a loan move purely because they wanted Beckham to play a full MLS season.
Depending how you read the president’s comments it could suggest this season will be Beckham’s last. His MLS contract expires at the end of this season and it would seem he feels the American experiment is very much over. Spurs manager Harry Redknapp has also made suggestions he would consider signing Beckham once his Galaxy deal expires.
That’s why if this is Beckham’s last season in L.A. he should have given his full commitment from day one and been at that training camp and in the US from January promoting the league. Not because it’s the right thing to do but because he owes it to the club and it’s fans to act like a professional. Instead it would appear that Beckham has decided to look after what he considers most important, himself.