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Monday Morning Centerback: Making sense of the Beckham deal

David Beckham 7 (Reuters) 

Now that the deal has finally been made and David Beckham set to stay with AC Milan until the summer, thus missing half the 2009 MLS season, it is time to break it down and see how good or bad it really is.

When the details of this arrangement were first revealed by the LA Times last week, I was among several who thought it was a terrible idea to have Beckham return to MLS for what had the bitter taste of a forced Farewell Tour. It made no sense to have a player come back for a half season who wanted no part of being here.

According to everyone involved with the deal, that is far from being the case.

You can choose to believe or not believe that Beckham wants to return to MLS, that's something we won't really know the answer to until the summer when he returns and either gives his all or plays like a player with an eye on the exit door. One of the aspects of the agreement leads me to believe that maybe, just maybe, Beckham isn't in THAT much of a hurry to leave MLS behind (more on that later).

As far as the business-side of the deal, I'm not sure how anybody can call it a bad deal for the Galaxy. If anything, LA probably came away with more than some would have expected the club to fetch for a SALE of Beckham. The fact that the Galaxy got what it got for what is essentially an extended loan is impressive.

What did LA get? AC Milan kicked in money (with various reports putting that figure at between $4million and $5 million) and Beckham kicked in by waiving half his $6.5 million MLS salary. If those figures are to be believed then we are talking about somewhere between $7 million and $8 million. Throw in the AC Milan-LA Galaxy friendly on July 19th, which should sell out Home Depot Center, and the Galaxy are staring at an extremely impressive windfall for simply loaning out Beckham for four months.

The most impressive aspect of the deal for the Galaxy is the buyout clause LA attached to Beckham's that now means that instead of being able to opt out of the final two years of his MLS contract for free at the end of the 2009 season, Beckham will now have to pay a multi-million dollar fee to leave MLS after this season. MLS commissioner Don Garber confirmed the inclusion of a new buyout fee on Sunday.

So what's the negative? Obviously, from a soccer standpoint the Galaxy would be better off with Beckham for the entire season, and integrated him into a revamped Galaxy team in mid-season is not ideal. With the league now at 15 teams, qualifying for the playoffs is that much tougher and there is no telling whether Beckham will return in July and find a playoff contender or a flop of a squad too far out of the race for Beckham to make a difference.

That's the risk being taken by the Galaxy in this. Yes, there is plenty of talk about how MLS and the Galaxy are losing face because of this trade, and how all the hollow talk about deadlines and Beckham coming home is making Don Garber and Tim Lieweke look foolish, but this is far from the first soccer transfer/loan move to be preceded by hyperbole and threats and deadlines that wound up going ignored. That's all part of the international transfer dance, and based on what the Galaxy was able to squeez out of AC Milan, LA and MLS didn't do a bad job of dancing.

What remains now is for Beckham to arrive in July and play with the heart and determination he has shown in Italy, and not the lethargy and lack of motivation he showed in the second half of 2008. He must give MLS fans a reason to believe in him again and believe his commitment to Los Angeles and MLS. Anything less than all-star form and Beckham will look like a phony simply biding his time until he can leave.

Sure, there will still be casual soccer fans, and celebrity fans, who will go to games in bunches regardless of any of this winter's events, but there is an established MLS fan base that has been left with a bad feeling about how Beckham acted this winter. If he cares about his MLS future, or if he even wants one, then Beckham will do everything he can to win the fans back. If he doesn't deliver the effort, or worse yet, if he buys out his contract and leaves after the season, then he will be exposed for the fraud that some fans already think he is.

In that scenario, the Galaxy will look at this agreement as having been a failure from a soccer standpoint, but as we stand today, the deal LA struck with AC Milan is a valuable financial victory during trying economic times, with the potential for being a complete triumph if Beckham lives up to his end of the bargain when he comes back.


What do you think of the Beckham loan deal? Think the Galaxy made out like bandits? Still feel LA made a mistake by making any deal at all? Are you just glad the sideshow has been put on hold?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Make sense of this? Reported yesterday that Arena asked Beckham not to return to England for friendlies in summer.

    The only answer for this is, a Galaxy CYA move, or Bruce has a reading disorder.

  2. From a marketing stand point its good, because MLS can sell it all season, and his cache is going up after a successful stint on a big side. Galaxy’s poor form hurt the beckham franchise. Its restored now, he’s an England international again, and the crowds will come.

  3. I think Beckham should go. He said he was coming here to promote the game. But instead of promoting the game he tried to promote himself and his wife. Since both did of those did not work here to his liking he wanted to cut and run. I say good riddance. I was one that never wanted to go to a LA Galaxy game because they double the price just because they had Beckham. MLS is about soccer, it is not about Beckham. I think we should concentrate on getting players who actually want to be here and play soccer, if not thank you but sorry!

    Mr Beckham, I am sorry you are really a dissapointment as an ambassador of the game, in my view.

  4. There’s a difference between short-term and long-term thinking.

    You can talk up this deal all you want Ives, but you’ll be ignoring the fact that these occurrences are short-term thinking. In the long-term, these debacles will hurt MLS as its own fans lose respect for it. As casual observers see the Beckham circuses and tune in to find out what the big deal is, only to see Beckham not playing, injured, or not doing much that a casual observer can understand.

    And, you may say these deals happen everywhere in sports but you’re also displaying a great example of short-term thinking. People, as it is happening now, are getting fed up with the nonsense of business and so-called ‘ethics’ of business and the games of sales. You can see it all around in the U.S.

    The reason is? It doesn’t work. It works long enough to make people think it works. And, it has worked long enough that for a long time, people will still believe it worked, but it didn’t. Short-term thinking destroys consumer confidence in brands.

  5. Boo…still boo…alway be boo, and I certainly hope he will continually and perpetually be booed, jeered, and harassed at every game Beckham plays in (which probably won’t be that many).

  6. Random thoughts about the whole Beckham transfer saga:

    1. In my view, MLS really got David Beckham in a perfect storm of self doubt in January 2007. Dropped by Steve McLaren an the England National Team, dropped by Fabio Cappello and the underperforming Real Madrid. Beckham thought his time in top flight football was over when he signed with LA Galaxy that month. He was clearly wrong.

    2. If Beckham’s very solid performances for England didn’t already say to him that he made a mistake in coming to MLS at only age 32, then his very strong performances for the mighty AC Milan certainly cemented that notion. Beckham should have taken that AC Milan offer in 2007 or reupped with Real Madrid for 2 more years.

    3. All things considered, I feel Tim Leiweke, LA Galaxy & MLS handled this mess about as well as one could. If the reports are true that Beckham will continue on in MLS after the 2010 World Cup, then it’s really an outstanding job under the circumstances.

    4. Having said all that, I’m not sure Beckham would have asked for a loan/transfer if LA Galaxy were actually a good team. The Designated Player Rule in it’s current form is clearly a failure. $400K is still too much to count against the miniscule MLS salary cap for just one player. When a team has two of them, like LA Galaxy and DC United – forget about it – the team is done. Those teams are forced to fill the squad with essentially semi-pro player quality. The DP rule needs serious revision.

    5. This all applies to Landon Donovan as well. Donovan would be in the same European boat out of town as Beckham had he not tried to bite off more than he can chew. Bayern Munich are too big and too good for LD Had Donovan chosen a team like Everton, Fulham, Deportivo La Coruna or Getafe, for his loan, rest assured, he would not be back either.

  7. I agree mostly, though I will say that the fact that Beckham so wants to not play in this league that he is willing to pay out of his own pocket to leave MLS is a bit of a stain on the league’s reputation.

    The only way he doesn’t buy out his contract after this year is if he is done with England. That is all he cares about and as long as he has a shot at making the squad he will avoid MLS like the plague. It unfortunate too because I love MLS. It is my league. I follow it, not any of the European leagues.

  8. I still don’t think it’s a great deal for LAG (although it might be fine for Anchutz financially):

    1. Arena has to build a team and than it changes significantly midseason.

    2. The “cap relief” is still screwy. They get to sign a player for up to $200k for HALF of the season. And then they have to cut that player. That player goes in KNOWING that they’ll be cut after half of the season. And no, they can’t sign 2-3-4 players for that sum. Because in the end, they don’t get extra roster spaces.

    3. The amount of money is illusionary. They get the $4-5 million. But Beckham kicking in half is salary–wait, isn’t Milan paying half is salary now?

    4. The buy-out clause means little. Milan can still purchase Beckham at the end of the season. That might mean a lot of $ for the corporate parent but it doesn’t help the club that much. LAG will probably have a lot of allocation money coming anyway for the sale of Donovan.

    5. As for the friendly, give me a break! The single biggest issue the LAG had when they added Beckham the first season was all the exhibitions and tours and “World Series of Soccer” and “Pan-Asian” championships they played in. If they want to be a good team, they should not be playing a friendly with Milan and adding extra minutes to Beckham’s aging legs.

    Instead, here’s what we get:
    –a team built around 2 guys (Donovan and Beckham) who wanted to be elsewhere, who will have multiple commitments this year (Donovan, Gold Cup, WCQ, Confed Cup and Beckham, 4 English NT matches with cross-country and cross-Atlantic flights for each of them)
    –one of those two guys will be 34, and has demonstrated that when he plays a lot of games (ie: more than one MLS season) he gets hurt.
    –MLS standing in the way of a guy who said he wanted to leave for Milan
    –MLS backing down from it’s deadline and promise that once past a set date there would be no discussions.


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