Beckham Steps Away From MLS, Sparking A Wave Of Interest From A-League Clubs
David Beckham will play his final game for the Major League Soccer L.A. Galaxy in the MLS Cup next month, according to the AP. The 37-year-old Beckham is "not retiring," but gave "no hint of his next move" (AP, 11/20). REUTERS' Simon Evans wrote that Beckham's ability to grab media attention, sell merchandise and boost attendance figures "makes him an attractive proposition for an emerging club or league looking for a marketing breakthrough." A source close to Beckham said that several clubs from several countries "had already shown interest." Much of the interest is coming from Australia. Football Federation Australia said last week that it had "made an approach for Beckham." A 10-game cameo for an A-League club "could be a lucrative and enjoyable option." The Chinese Super League, whose clubs have increasingly targeted well-known int'l players, would "surely appeal to the marketers" of Beckham. Beckham might also consider "a brief but romantic return to English football" (REUTERS, 11/19).
THE RACE IS ON IN A-LEAGUE: In Sydney, Sebastian Hassett reported Beckham will give a press conference in L.A. Wednesday where he is "expected to outline his plans." However, it is "unlikely he will provide any specific details about his next port of call." Six A-League clubs have publicly declared themselves in the running to bring Beckham to Australia. Only Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory, Brisbane Roar and the Newcastle Jets have ruled themselves out. Perth Glory was the first Australian club to announce its interest Friday, followed by Adelaide United over the weekend. Western Sydney and Wellington Phoenix "have cautiously hinted at making an offer." Melbourne Heart also expressed interest. Central Coast also threw its "hat into the ring," and while it might be the smallest club in the league, it boasts "access to some of the deepest pockets" in Australia (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 11/21). BLOOMBERG's Erik Matuszewski reported a posting on Perth's Twitter account said "the race is on" for Beckham. Heart CEO Scott Munn said his team would put forward a "compelling offer" (BLOOMBERG, 11/20). In London, James Riach wrote a move to Australia "could prove one final swansong" before Beckham decides to end his playing career. There is "understandable clamour from within the A-League" to complete for what "would be a significant marketing coup." Securing the Beckham brand "guarantees a huge boost in revenue for any side and league, no matter if his ability on the pitch has waned in recent years" (GUARDIAN, 11/20).
COUGHING UP THE CASH: In Sydney, Ray Gatt reported the growing list of Australian clubs interested in signing Beckham will "have to come up with at least A$2M ($2.1M) if they want to lure him to the A-League." It is understood the former England captain and ManU, Real Madrid and AC Milan star would command as much as A$200,000 a game for a 10-match guest player stint. A deal of that size would "dwarf the money" Sydney is paying Italy's Alessandro Del Piero "for an entire season" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 11/21). In Melbourne, Matt Windley reported Melbourne Heart submitted a A$1.7M bid for Beckham to make a 10-game guest player appearance beginning Jan. 18. Central Coast also submitted an offer to Beckham. Perth was "first to launch a bid," which is believed to be close to A$2M. Munn said, "We tabled an offer by the close of business [Tuesday] and now we'll sit tight. We don't expect to hear anything for another 7-10 days at least" (HERALD SUN, 11/21).
QUICK FIX: In Sydney, Richard Hinds opined Beckham's possible appearance in the A-League, not the league's new A$160M media rights deal, "has everyone talking." The possibility Beckham could "swap Hollywood for Villawood raises some awkward questions." It provides a reminder of the game's "long-term addiction to the quick fix." For Beckham, the "devil in the detail" is whether the 10-game guest appearance initially floated by some club's "would be beneficial to Beckham Inc. than the A-League." Del Piero's two-year commitment "creates a far greater chance he will leave a permanent legacy, not merely attract daytrippers who identify more with Beckham's celebrity lifestyle than his killer right foot" (SMH, 11/21).
ASIAN APPEAL: The London INDEPENDENT wrote that Beckham's marketing appeal could "climb even further" should he play in Asia, with his sponsors "almost certainly likely to give their seal of approval." Beckham moving to China would be a massive coup for the Super League, and he would be able to name his price (INDEPENDENT, 11/20).
MAKING IT WORK: The London GUARDIAN's Richard Williams opined on The Sport Blog that Beckham has "handled his moves across the football chessboard with considerable shrewdness and few missteps." There will be plenty of offers for his services, but "what sort of challenge would that represent to a man who has already proved himself in four countries?" Beckham's family needs will "also be taken into consideration." Wife Victoria Beckham has "overcome scepticism to build a free-standing career." Her fashion business is "an int'l success." As many rumors have suggested, the A-League "looks to be the best bet." Whatever Beckham decides, it will "probably involve an element of risk as well as guaranteed reward." There was "no shortage of scoffing" when he announced that he was heading to L.A., but he "made it work." He "usually does" (GUARDIAN, 11/20).