Ramblings of a Soccer Junky
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
  Hot and Spicy

Boy, what a hornet’s nest. The signing of Beckham has really stirred things up. Soccer fans in this country have suspected he would probably end up playing in MLS but I doubt many would have predicted it would be this soon.

You’ve got the Real Madrid President Ramon Calderon insulting Beckham and the fans at the Bernabeu then issuing a half hearted apology.

You’ve got the Real Madrid Coach telling Beckham to get used to watching from the stands and now backtracking a bit.

You’ve got the British managers deciding that Beckham is just taking an early retirement in the MLS geriatric league—I grew up watching Robson manage Ipswich so it bothers me to disagree with him here.


You’ve got the US sports media apparently pissed off that AEG would have the gall to invest that much money in some foreign player in a sport no one cares about in this country. I thought that hostility was reserved for World Cup years.

Whew. Such hate in the world. It almost makes you forget about Bush and Iraq…well, I did say “almost.”

Thankfully, there are writers like Grant Wahl who actually do research and get the real story to the people without all the negative editorials. Thanks Grant, great piece.

Lastly, there’s my old friend Ann Killion. I haven’t had a good Killion rant in a while so when I read her recent piece in the Smurf news, I just had to respond.

The league is certain to see a boost in television ratings, ticket sales and overall profile when Becks and his famous family (wife Victoria, a.k.a. Posh Spice, and sons Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz) arrive in Los Angeles. Beckham, glamorous, gorgeous and still owner of the most beautiful free kick known to soccer, is going to create a buzz.

But then what?

This isn’t Luis Hernandez here. When he arrived in LA, fans packed the Rose Bowl for one match and didn’t bother showing up again. This time around, people are grabbing Season Tickets. That’s a huge difference. Also, let’s not forget that MLS signed some very nice TV deals with ESPN and Fox recently…well before Beckham signed with MLS. It’s benifital for
the TV companies to ride this publicity as well. They have a duty totheir sponsors after all.

A lot of American soccer fans would like to see some of that $250 million plowed into player development, such as finding a better way to spot and develop players who aren't products of our elitist youth soccer system.

Now, Miss Killion, perhaps you haven’t been paying attention. The majority of the $250 million isn’t coming from MLS or AEG. It’s coming from various sponsors and endorsement deals. If you don’t believe it, read the Grant Wahl piece again.

Some of us would be more interested in the hiring of another former European star. That would be Juergen Klinsmann, who was all set to become the next coach of the men's national team before U.S. Soccer managed to screw up the deal. Now, the team is led by Bob Bradley as it embarks on another quadrennial search to improve its standing.

I’m sorry, what do the two events have to do with each other. USSF were dealing with Klinsmann, AEG were dealing with Beckham. How exactly are you linking the two? You’re talking Apples and Oranges here.

Here's one way his arrival is different than that of Pelé three decades ago: The New York Cosmos hired the best player in the world, whereas the Galaxy has hired the most famous player in the world.

If memory serves me right, Pele was in his mid 30’s and had already retired from playing when he was talking into joining the Cosmos. Beckham is 31 and captained England at the World Cup last summer. Also, Pele was probably the most famous player in the world at that time...I'd argue that Johan Cruyff was the best player in the world at that time. In my opinion he was.

MLS had better hope he still has enough skills -- though that's a double-edged wish. If Beckham arrives and is clearly the best player in the league, it will only confirm the rest of the world's opinion that MLS is a third-tier organization.

..And what if Edgar Davids and/or Ronaldo come to MLS and perform about the same as Beckham? It’s a gamble that’s being played. Obviously based on ticket sales so far it was a worthwhile gamble so far.

That's because Beckham, 31, comes to Los Angeles basically out of other soccer options. He had already lost his place in the Real Madrid side (and was told this weekend that he won't ever play again for the club). The former captain of England, he's no longer playing for his country.

C’mon now. Beckham stepped down as captain of England after the World Cup because he will be 35 in 2010. Steve McClaren, for whatever reason, decided to look at younger players for the squad in the buildup for Euro ’08. The way things are going I’d be surprised if McClaren still has the job by this summer and who knows if the new boss will want Beckham in their bid.

MLS was the only league willing to shower him with money and love. And it's quite a drenching.

How quickly we forget things. Everton, Bolton, West Ham, and Celtic are among the clubs interested in buying him. Fact is LA isn’t paying him any more than he would have got at any of the other clubs.

Beckham's job isn't to play soccer but to sell jerseys

That’s funny, one of the main reasons Real signed him in the first place was to sell jerseys and raise the profile of the club in Asia. Yes, he does get a percentage of the jersey sale revenue. Wouldn’t you take that if you were Beckham? Real never offered him that.

Beckham's deal is expected to open the door to other past-their-prime international stars, such as Ronaldo. That all sounds suspiciously like NASL, which folded in 1984.

Is that a bad thing? I’m not sure why everyone associates bringing talented name players to NASL as the downfall of the league. Fans were buying tickets and TV was starting to provide some decent broadcast packages. The downfall was due to teams spending more than they can afford on those players. MLS/AEG are spending well within their means to get Beckham so you can’t make that

Our best and brightest know they have to go to Europe to become great players, while former European stars may realize they can come here and coast comfortably into retirement. MLS might morph into a senior circuit.

Nice try Ann. There are so many differences here that I don’t know where to start. First off let me say it again, Beckham is only 31. He’s got a few years left in his legs. After all, how old was Preki when he retired? How old were Donadoni and Matthäus when they were in New York?

The fact is MLS isn’t the EPL, Serie A or La Liga. It won’t be anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean MLS teams should get the best players they can. So what if Beckham isn’t 27 any more. He’s still got his right foot which is what got him to the top in the first place. How bad can that be?

It sure hasn't hurt Brazil that their 'best and brightest' have to head to Europe.

Ok, enough of Killion. I really need to stop reading what she writes.

Sorry, I’m going to read some other stuff and I promise I’ll try and post something which isn’t about Beckham next time. Do the Galaxy’s new colors count as something non-Beckham?

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The Galaxy changing colors is a big mistake. They've cultivated a good identity with the gold and green sash look, it's a big mistake to throw that away.

Besides, yellow and green. Niiiice. :)
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An American who fell in love with soccer while living in Europe.

Location: Hoosierville, IN, United States
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