SBD/Issue 96/Franchises

Beckham For First Time Says He Wants To Leave Galaxy For Milan

Beckham Enjoys Highest Level
Of Competition In Italy
Galaxy MF David Beckham yesterday "said quite plainly what he had been hinting at for weeks -- that he wants out -- and that he wants to stay with AC Milan," according to Grahame Jones of the L.A. TIMES. Beckham: "I have expressed my desire now to stay in Milan and hopefully the clubs can come to some agreement. My main objective is stay at this club. I enjoy playing here and at the highest level." Beckham added that remaining in Milan would give him "'more of a chance' of being on England's team at the World Cup in South Africa next year." Beckham: "I have not spoken to the Galaxy, but someone has from my side and it is literally down to them to come to some sort of agreement and hopefully they will." Jones notes Beckham is due to return to the Galaxy on March 9. The Galaxy yesterday did not comment on Beckham's future. AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke "earlier promised season-ticket holders that Beckham would be back," but with Beckham "having stated his desire to remain in Italy, the more likely scenario is that Beckham will get his wish" (L.A. TIMES, 2/5). Beckham: "It's nothing against MLS and the football over there, because it's a game that will grow. But it will take quite a few years" (London TELEGRAPH, 2/5).

NOT WANTING TO BURN BRIDGES: Beckham admitted that he is "not sure" how the Galaxy would respond to the news and that he is "wary of upsetting Leiweke, with whom he has had a good relationship." In London, Graham Spiers reports AC Milan attorney Leandro Cantamessa yesterday "joined forces with Beckham's advisers in discussion" with Leiweke about releasing Beckham from his MLS contract. A permanent move to Milan by Beckham "would not fall foul of UEFA's transfer window restrictions if Galaxy agreed to cancel his contract" (LONDON TIMES, 2/5). Also in London, Nick Harris writes with Galaxy's blessing, a permanent transfer "should be agreed quickly, in which case Milan would need to pay Galaxy a transfer fee." Beckham has a "get-out clause in his Galaxy contract but cannot trigger it without financial penalties until October" (London INDEPENDENT, 2/5).

POWER PLAY: SI.com's Jonah Freedman writes for the "first time in MLS history, the Galaxy have huge leveraging power over one of the preeminent soccer clubs in the entire world." The Galaxy "may have no choice but to let Beckham go, but they also have a unique opportunity to hold him hostage until they get something from Milan -- something beyond the eight-figure cash offer that inevitably will be [thrown] their way." Freedman lists "three bargaining chips the Galaxy can demand" from Milan: a suitable replacement player, a visit from Milan and a "beneficial partnership" (FANNATION.com, 2/5).

Beckham Boosted Attendance 
Throughout MLS While With Galaxy
WAS IT WORTH IT? In Philadelphia, John Smallwood writes "The Great Beckham Experiment" in MLS has not had "nearly the impact anyone had hoped for." The intentions for bringing Beckham to the Galaxy "were good, but the truth is, he was the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time." Smallwood: "If you look at it from the broad view, Beckham's move to MLS must be deemed a failure. Yes, he's increased sales of Herbalife LA Galaxy jerseys and helped attendance leaguewide, but his coming was supposed to be a game-changer for MLS" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 2/5). YAHOO SPORTS' Martin Rogers wrote the Galaxy saga will be an "incongruous blip on his career record." Rogers: "Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan ... the Los Angeles Galaxy. In short, the biggest club in England, the biggest club in Spain, the biggest club in Italy and the 13th-best club in Major League Soccer." The Galaxy deserves "no sympathy in the affair and must accept a heavy dose of blame for the way the Beckham experiment degenerated into a farce." The club's "inability to build a team capable of anything more than repeatedly pathetic performances, despite the biggest payroll in the league, exposed the true priorities of the ownership group." Rogers: "As a money-making venture, the Galaxy must be viewed as a success. ... But as a sports organization it is rotten, having cannibalized itself with the wrong decisions made for the wrong reasons" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/4). Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw: “His work is not quite done in lifting the MLS up to the level he wants it” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 2/4).

HE BROUGHT ATTENTION TO LEAGUE: ESPN's Tommy Smyth deemed Beckham’s time with the Galaxy as a success. Smyth: "What other player in MLS can bring the world’s attention to look at MLS? ... This man was everywhere, in every newspaper you got and every magazine. It was a success, maybe not football-wise, but certainly from a marketing point of view.” While admitting MLS will "take a hit" with the loss of Beckham, Smyth said, "The league’s only an infant league. It has a lot of time to go. They will miss David Beckham, but it’s not the end of the world” ("ESPN First Take," ESPN2, 2/5).

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