LOS ANGELES – Given how David Beckham’s career has gone, it was only appropriate that the wrangling over what may be his final contract involved some twists and turns before culminating with a Hollywood (well, close anyway) ending.
Beckham is poised to put pen to paper on a one-year deal to return to the Los Angeles Galaxy after a much-anticipated switch to French side Paris Saint-Germain fell apart at the final hurdle.
There are plenty of reasons why Beckham will shun Paris chic in favor of a return to Tinseltown, but only one really matters: Coming back, quite simply, simply makes sense.
With his family settled in California, it was always going to take something special to pull him away from the Galaxy, with whom he finally won a Major League Soccer Cup in November.
PSG officials, backed by big money from Qatar Sports Investments, thought they had the kind of special package that would lure him – not just a salary that would have reached $12 million per season, but with the possibility to once again play in a leading European division and in the Champions League.
Beckham, with his unfailing commitment to his home country, may even have harbored some lasting desire to play for England at Euro 2012 before England boss Fabio Capello categorically ruled out that option two months ago.
PSG would have nearly doubled his salary from the $6.5 million that he was, and will likely continue, to be paid by the Galaxy. Furthermore, PSG’s new manager, Carlo Ancelotti, is a friend of Beckham’s, so much so that the player has even been to Ancelotti’s hometown in Italy to visit him.
Despite all that, coming back to L.A. just added up. Beckham’s children have grown up in L.A. and love the lifestyle, while his wife, Victoria, is deeply settled in the Californian way of life.
Beckham's friendship with Ancelotti would not have meant any favors from the coach, and with big- name signings such as Kaka and Pato potentially on their way to PSG, opportunities for Beckham to start may have been few and far between.
Conversely, he still has much to offer the American game. The Galaxy ended up getting their man by playing their negotiating hand slowly, carefully and cleverly. The Galaxy’s owners, AEG, left it late before coming in with their biggest offer, the one that will likely be signed over the next week, in the days leading up to Christmas.
Just as the Beckham family was preparing to fly out of L.A., bound for a festive period in London, AEG turned up the heat and is believed to have presented a one-year deal on the same $6.5 million salary that he was previously making. They also allowed a provision that will give Beckham significant freedom to play a full role in the London Olympic Games in the summer, not just as a member of the England squad but also as a figurehead and ambassador for the Games.
It was enough.
From that moment on, PSG went from being a heavy favorite to lock down the England midfielder, to a real longshot. PSG sporting director Leonardo had several conversations with Beckham between Christmas and New Year but was unable to sway him.
Getting Beckham back is big for the Galaxy, with the club determined to try to build a dynasty and add to the MLS silverware it claimed in November. Though it looked at other superstar options (such as Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard) as a contingency plan, what it wanted more than anything was to keep hold of Beckham.
The 36-year-old knows the flow of the Galaxy team and has come to understand the peculiarities of MLS better the past couple of seasons. Culturally, he is still an icon and the most recognizable selling point soccer can offer.
The Galaxy took a risk by playing hardball but eventually knew they could rely on Beckham’s social ties to the area for an advantage. In pure soccer terms, MLS may still be behind its European counterparts, but the league’s most famous club again showed itself to be a heavyweight on the business battlefield.
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