David Beckham's desperation to leave the Los Angeles Galaxy seems to have no limitations, with reports in Italy stating that the England midfielder has sent his legal team to California to negotiate a release from his contract.
Owners AEG and head coach Bruce Arena must decide what approach will be best in the post-Beckham era. The wrong choices could be catastrophic for a franchise that has already suffered through troubled times.
Here are a few of their options:
1. The superstar route
AEG wants entertainment and that generally means big names. In terms of soccer celebrity, Beckham was about as big as it gets, but there could be the temptation to bring in another high-profile superstar to replace him.
A permanent transfer to AC Milan could net the Galaxy a hefty fee, which could be reinvested. Strikers Alessandro Del Piero and Michael Owen (now injured) have both been linked with the club. Yet don't be too surprised if the Galaxy try to make Andriy Shevchenko, out of favor at Milan and with an American supermodel wife, part of the Beckham package.
Why: The L.A. public has grown accustomed to celebrity names and a recognizable international star would help keep attendance high.
Why not: One man doesn't make a team and Beckham couldn't prevent the Galaxy from being among the worst in Major League Soccer for two straight seasons.
2. The homegrown approach
Arena's knowledge of MLS is first-rate and there may be no better man to build a young, hungry, competitive team from scratch. If he had his way, he would create a team filled with motivated players at reasonable salaries that do not create salary-cap dilemmas.
Plenty of quality MLS players are available for around $200,000 a year, but whether that ethos fits in with AEG's philosophy remains to be seen.
Why: The huge salaries paid to Beckham and Donovan left little cap room – this approach should allow for a much deeper squad and avoid locker room division between the "haves" and "have-nots."
Why not: An absence of big names would drastically reduce the potential revenue from lucrative exhibition games against international opponents and also affect ticket sales at the Home Depot Center.
3. Quality but anonymity
While questions have been raised about whether highly-paid imports provide value for money, the two finalists in the 2008 MLS Cup both had overseas stars as the catalyst for their success.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto of the champion Columbus Crew and Juan Pablo Angel of the New York Red Bulls were good examples of the positive influence that can be enjoyed from looking abroad. The Galaxy could opt to splash money on a South American star of proven ability to spearhead their revival, without paying the vast sums needed to lure a player from a top European club.
Why: Like Schelotto and Angel, the new arrival could elevate the play of those around him and add an "X-Factor" to the squad.
Why not: If the newcomer is not a big name, then the value he brings would solely be determined by his on-field efforts. If he failed to acclimatize or decided to move on after a year, it could affect team morale and stability.
- David Beckham
- AC Milan
- Landon Donovan