David Beckham's career could have been made for Hollywood, at least until he landed on the doorstep of Tinseltown.
While most of Beckham's soccer life resembled the staple movie-reel fodder of heartbreak, redemption and happy ending, his stint with the Los Angeles Galaxy has been more like a black comedy.
The script was in place for a rousing story of success, but thanks to Beckham and most of his supporting cast fluffing their lines, the England midfielder's American adventure will end with an overwhelming sense of anticlimax at the end of the 2009 Major League Soccer season.
Beckham has no desire to come back to the Galaxy, but a deal is close to being reached that will see him stay on loan at AC Milan until the end of the European campaign in July before playing out the remaining months in Los Angeles and exercising an opt-out clause in his contract.
It all means that the Beckham era will pass by MLS with little in the way of meaningful change to the sport's status in America.
It could have all been so different, though.
If a fit, hungry and determined Beckham had suited up in Galaxy colors instead of a hobbling and exhausted wreck with his focus on an England national team recall, then the club would surely have performed far better than its miserable efforts the past two seasons.
Yet the 33-year-old cannot be held solely responsible. The Galaxy's mismanagement – and certain actions by his team of advisors – all contributed toward the collapse of Beckham's American Dream.
Here we pinpoint the 10 critical mistakes that ensured his move to the United States would end in failure.
1. The injection
Beckham's performances for Real Madrid toward the end of his four-year stay were outstanding and helped the Spanish club clinch the La Liga title. However, his desperation to play in the final game against Real Mallorca led to him having a cortisone injection in his troublesome left ankle, which, it is believed, only got worse once he arrived in America.
2. The price tag
Beckham's glitzy unveiling at the Home Depot Center was full of the sort of hype and hoopla you would expect to greet the man chosen to invigorate soccer in the U.S. But all the fireworks and glitter wasn't enough for 19, Beckham's management company, which put out a release with the fancy price tag of $250 million, the figure Becks could apparently earn over five years.
No detailed breakdown of how that sum was arrived at has ever been released and over time it became apparent it was a nice round amount aimed at generating maximum media coverage. However, as Beckham failed to make an impact on the pitch, the $250 million figure was increasingly ridiculed by his critics and damaged his credibility.
3. The promises
Thanks to his ankle problem, Beckham couldn't play once he arrived in Los Angeles. So he talked. And talked and talked and talked at countless news conferences around North America, all saying pretty much the same thing.
He said he wasn't trying to lift soccer above America's "big three" sports, but he would and could raise the profile of the game. He was committed to it, for at least five years and maybe longer.
It was a nice idea and nice sentiment. However, his subsequent actions and desire to run for the hills at the earliest opportunity cast a disingenuous shadow over him. A glance back at those early days now suggests he was uttering nothing more than empty words.
4. The tackle
Beckham should not have played against Chelsea in an exhibition game 10 days after turning up in California. His ankle had not recovered properly and was heavily bandaged. He came on as a substitute, and he and the Galaxy were a few minutes from getting away with their risk.
Then Chelsea backup midfielder Steve Sidwell came charging in with a horrible tackle that caused more bruising to Beckham's ankle and added more delays to the real start of the Becks road show.
5. The TV show
Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham's reality television show was a bad idea for a number of reasons, not simply because it was horrible viewing. The attempt to thrust Victoria into the Hollywood limelight fueled the ire of the critics who suggested David Beckham had come to MLS for factors other than soccer.
6. The overexuberance
The 2007 SuperLiga final was the Galaxy's best chance of salvaging something from an awful season. An apparently fully fit Beckham was keen to show the fans what they had been missing.
However, his enthusiasm went too far. By leaping into a challenge with Pachuca's Fernando Salazar, Beckham ruptured knee ligaments that would keep him out until the final game of the season.
7. The appointment
Season 2 was going to be when it all started going right for the Galaxy. Head coach Frank Yallop was sent packing to San Jose after a dismal season and was replaced by Ruud Gullit. A former World Footballer of the Year, Gullit, the reasoning suggested, would have the necessary gravitas to not be overshadowed by the Beckham circus.
And he did. The problem was he had no knowledge of MLS and little inclination to learn. Gullit was sent on his way within eight months and left behind a club in crisis.
8. The signing
Carlos Ruiz is just one of several clueless signings made by the Galaxy, but the decision to bring in the Guatemalan striker highlighted the utter failure of the club to surround Beckham with any kind of meaningful talent.
Ruiz was injured in the first game of the 2008 campaign in Colorado and was unable to make any impact. The man for whom the Galaxy had clogged up their salary cap space ended up being offloaded to Toronto FC before the end of the season.
9. The loan
Beckham's desire to cling to his England career was fully understandable, but the handling of his loan move to Milan was poor on all sides. The Galaxy were naive for not spotting the potential trouble, and Beckham's advisors should have done more to keep his employer in the picture.
It was the beginning of the end. And although Beckham will be back in MLS for a few months, the end is effectively here.
10. The clause
The clause in Beckham's MLS contract that allows him to opt out after three years was kept silent in the early stages. It probably didn't seem like a big deal to the league or the Galaxy at the time, but the clause eventually became a serious problem.
If not for its inclusion, AC Milan would not have been able to toy with the Galaxy in the negotiating process and this sorry situation could have been resolved more quickly.