As you think about David Beckham – Will he? Won’t he? Where did his love for us go? – and whether he’ll keep the Good Ship Becks docked in Don Garber Harbor, let’s talk quickly about shifting values and diminishing returns.
In a way, Beckham and the attached regiments of Brand Beckham are no different than any other goods, like a camera, a coffee maker or those awful and gaudy Christmas sweaters. There are different versions with disparate values. And those values inevitably shift.
Take tablets and e-readers as an example. That version that rocked in 2009 and ran you $400 is practically a doorstop now – although you can still find them on-line for 50 bucks, if you’re one of those people who can’t let go.
Apparently, when it comes to our soccer stars, a lot of us can’t let go. Which is why there’s still a battle raging over Beckham’s services, even as he preps to turn 37 in May.
Depending on whom you believe, he has already signed a deal with Paris St. Germain, one that comes attached to lots of dollar signs, commas and zeroes. Suffice to say, the Beckhams won’t need to eat those cheap crepes from the Parisian street vendors in order to make ends meet. (Although I have to say, those crepes are freakin’ delicious. I like mine with Nutella, personally.)
Beckham probably makes sense for Paris St. Germain, which was once relevant in discussions of European money clubs but has fallen in mighty, extended and profound ways. (It’s so easy to forget that Ronaldinho spent two seasons at PSG before becoming a household name at Barcelona.) Lyon and Marseilles have been the bell cows of French football for the last couple of decades, as the team out of Parc des Princes, in a fairly unfashionable Parisian ‘hood West of all the pretty stuff and pretty people, went stinky and stale.
So, as the club attempts to polish up its image, signing Beckham makes sense. He remains one of global soccer’s most recognizable icons. He may be THE most recognizable icon. He’s been lapped by Leo Messi and many, many others in the "mad skillz" department, but as an ongoing marketing tour du force, Brand Beckham still holds massive cache.
As for his value to MLS and the Galaxy? Meh.
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Beckham really did so much for MLS. When AEG president Tim Leiweke or MLS commish Don Garber talk effusively about what No. 23 delivered in terms of recognition and residual value in TV contracts and such, they aren’t just spewing PR bluster. Beckham seriously delivered the goods, even if the full value is difficult to quantify and won’t be fully known for years.
In the end, he also helped deliver a championship to the Galaxy. That was the one element still missing as Beckham began (probably some time last summer) thinking about his next, and probably last, move on global soccer’s marble chess board. So when he checked the box on "MLS Cup trophy," the likelihood increased substantially that he was gone like this morning’s office doughnuts.
And I say, that’s OK. This is about those diminishing value I talked about, or "diminishing returns," if you prefer.
The bulk of what Beckham could deliver was on the table years ago. Yes, he’s a draw on the road, but nothing like in 2007 or perhaps even 2008. Yes, he’s on the Power Point presentation when MLS negotiates TV contracts, but he’s far less prominent in the presentation.
For what Los Angeles and MLS would need to pay to keep Beckham another year, it simply isn’t worth the money anymore. It was at one time, without question in my mind. Now, not so much.
I’m sure Bruce Arena would like to keep Beckham, because he proved in 2011 that he’s still an effective player. But, again, he’s about to turn 37. His effectiveness is bound to decline as the legs lose elasticity and injuries become more of a factor. And they will. Beckham may be preternaturally handsome, but he’s closer to mere mortals in terms of physiology. To that point, there’s a reason most athletes are retiring by his age, if they haven’t already.
Beckham in MLS? I’ve seen that movie. Beckham in Ligue 1, as Paris St. Germain’s new showpiece? Yeah, I’d be interested in monitoring where that goes.
Best guess: I’d say he’s gone. And I’m on record as saying it’s probably best for all.