David Beckham began what is likely to be his final season with the Los Angeles Galaxy on Thursday with questions to answer, a point to prove and a legacy to leave behind.
A tense and uncertain winter saw the 35-year-old midfielder mired in an odd impasse with the Galaxy, centering around his desire to complete a full loan move to Tottenham Hotspur and L.A.'s refusal to sanction it.
Yet just one day of training seemed to have smoothed over any misunderstanding or animosity on Thursday and, with maybe just one more chance to win a Major League Soccer title, Beckham seems to be intently focused on making this season count.
Even his invitation to Britain's biggest social event of this generation – when Prince William weds Kate Middleton on April 29 – could not distract Beckham from the task at hand.
"It is a huge thing for our country to have a royal wedding," Beckham told Yahoo! Sports. "I am a big royal fan and have always loved the royal family. But we will have to wait and see [if I go]. I am just concentrating on getting ready and having a good season."
In reality, it is virtually unthinkable that Beckham would willingly miss the grand occasion, and equally unlikely that the Galaxy would prevent him from traveling for it, despite the team's MLS clash at FC Dallas two days later.
His comments, though, appear to dispel any notion that Beckham would return to California with a chip on his shoulder and lingering bitterness at the Galaxy's firm stance on the Tottenham situation, where he was permitted to train with the London club but prevented from playing any matches.
For now at least, Beckham and Galaxy owners AEG seem to be very much on the same page. AEG knows that if the Galaxy win a championship this year, the Beckham experiment can reasonably be considered a success. Therefore, it has built around him one of the best squads ever seen in MLS, with Landon Donovan and Juan Pablo Angel providing the extra star power.
For his part, Beckham is also hungry to win and answer the critics that have derided his transfer in 2007 as little more than an expensive publicity stunt.
"It is not about validating my time here at the Galaxy," said Beckham. "It is about the club being successful, not just me. I want to win trophies and titles whether it is the last season of my contract or not.
"The club needs progress, and we have had that. Now we want to win a championship."
The Galaxy hopes that after seeing each of his previous four MLS seasons disrupted by either injury or a loan move, it will finally see the best of Beckham. The early signs seem to be good – the Achilles injury that ruined Beckham's hopes of appearing in the World Cup is healed and head coach Bruce Arena is optimistic about his condition.
"I was pleased with how he looked," Arena said. "It looks as if the break has done him good and now it is just a case of getting him to match fitness."