THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

4 January ~ What could brighten up the bleak mid-winter more than the prospect of David Beckham’s return to the Premier League for a couple of months to top up the English public’s brand awareness of the highly capped midfielder. And only a cynic would doubt his claim, made via the fount of down-home philosophy that is the tongue of Harry Redknapp, that he wants to come to Tottenham Hotspur because they play good football. Choosing Tottenham is nothing, repeat nothing, to do with the fact that Spurs play his former teams Manchester United and AC Milan in the coming weeks, which in turn will mean the swooning media ensure that the games are All About David.

It’s quite a wonder that any top-flight club can be bothered with media-magnetic Beckham at the injury-prone age of 35. He was never the quickest even in his prime, and although few would question his work-rate, his crossing or his doctorate in dead-ball skills, he can not add a whole lot to a team that is playing its best football for several decades, at the highest level.

Redknapp at the weekend muttered something about Beckham being a good example to the young lads at training, and how he would have been useful coming on as a sub late against Fulham to help keep possession. Is there really no player on Tottenham’s books who can play that role? And is there no one in the club to help young players at training to understand the importance of professionalism? It’s not like this is the 1970s when they watched the senior pros stagger in late with a hangover every morning.

Four years ago, when Beckham’s move to the LA Galaxy was announced, there was a chorus of derision in the UK media about how he was wasting his talent in a Mickey Mouse league. So just how much has David dominated Major League Soccer? Well, he’s been king of the headlines, and he’s a long, long way ahead of all the other players when it comes to his annual base salary of $6.5 million (£4.2m). On the field, though, he’s been not much better or worse than anyone else. In four seasons he’s played 55 league games (he’s managed just 22 appearances over the past two), thanks to injuries, jaunts to the England bench and previous loan deals at AC Milan. He’s scored nine goals, and tallied 19 assists – not rubbish, but nowhere close to outstanding.

A cruel analyst might posit that by failing to set the league alight, Beckham is the model MLS player. LA came close to winning the title in 2009, losing the MLS Cup final on penalties to Salt Lake, but their good run that year preceded Beckham’s return from Serie A. This year he hardly played in MLS, thanks to the serious injury he picked up in spring in Italy. Instead of “getting fit” with Tottenham under the watch of a surely sceptical Fabio Capello, Beckham might consider that, for all the cash he’s banked, he owes MLS and his primary team a full season, and that he should be turning up for the pre-season without a pair of crutches under his armpits.

The midfielder’s performances in the US suggest that the league was either much better than the English media supposed, and that most of the players are of a quality that allows them to compete with a top England international. Or that Beckham’s play has slumped to the point where he’s just another average pro in a mediocre set-up. If it’s the former, expect MLS to be selling its TV rights around the world for billions of dollars sometime soon. If it’s the latter, then ask yourself what earthly use David Beckham could be for in-form Tottenham Hotspur over the winter months. It would, however, mean a ton of coverage for Harry, David and all their hangers-on and associated products. Ian Plenderleith

Comments (20)
Comment by Coral 2011-01-04 16:03:30

"he owes MLS and his primary team a full season" He owes them nothing. He was brought in to raise the MLS profile. There was a late night channel 5 highlights show for this, that we are talking about it now and that I know the score of the final in Toronto this year. He has raised the profile of a fairly small time league, despite you bias of having lived there you must agree the MLS is an irrelevance in world football.

"Or that Beckham’s play has slumped to the point where he’s just another average pro in a mediocre set-up" Beckham never was a man to win games alone, his play relies on those around him. But he adds a lot to those players. In LA the wage structure means they can't have those players around him. At Milan, Madrid, United (Gosh how these major clubs have been hoodwinked into getting him and keeping him) he had good players around him who he complimented. At Tottenham he will be able to start moves with his unrivalled passing ability.

The default emotion is utter cynacism for everything Beckham does. Yet I see a decent bloke who gives a lot back to the game and who comes back from adversity as post France 98 effigy burning and exiled from the Madrid team pre coming back and winning la liga, prove.

Comment by Mr Beast 2011-01-04 16:40:06

This would have been a good signing for Spurs in 2003 - Beckham has been in visible decline since he left Man Utd. Some people will still be demanding Beckham plays for England when he's well into his 40's.

Comment by imp 2011-01-04 17:45:02

Coral - it's true that Beckham came to MLS to raise its profile, but that was just one aspect of a symbiotic deal, and it didn't include him dicking the league about every winter. A far greater emphasis was put on Beckham's self-proclaimed mission to make football a big time national sport in the US, at the same time as selling himself and his Academy to a whole new untapped market. But it didn't work out the way he expected - after the initial hullaballoo, predictably interest waned in an already sports-saturated country. He didn't play well when he expected to dominate games - true, as you point out, that was never his forte at big clubs either, but he did at least turn games, and in MLS he was expected to do much more on the field. It may not be a spectacularly exciting league, but most clubs are savvy enough to neutralize a single player. Oh, and the Academy has closed, there's no more talk of his prime goal to convert the US masses to football, and he gives the distinct impression of not particularly caring about his team.

In short, I think he does owe his club a decent season with full commitment.

I'm not cynical about everything Beckham does. As a player in his 20s, he was one of the best at what he did. But you can't deny that his every move now appears aimed at creating a legacy - playing in Serie A, accumulating a record number of England caps, making a comeback in the Premier League, converting the US to football, being the FA's and the Olympic Committee's smiling front man, and all the bollocks of branded after shaves and the like that have come with it. It's tiresome and, for want of a better word, in terms of exploiting his actual talents it's cynical too.

Comment by Coral 2011-01-04 18:00:29

"it didn't include him dicking the league about every winter" We talking about Landon Donnovan or Beckham now? And your basic criticsm of Beckham is that he isn't a great player any more, but not through lack of effort. His big crime seems to be his unfortunate injury which precluded him from doing well this season. Well I think LA Galaxy have to accept that Beckham still wants to play for his country and so needs to keep fit to do so, thus he has to play abroad. It may not be convenient and they pay his wages, but the African cup of nations is not convenient to Drogba's Chelsea nor is the Asian cup covenient to Cahill's Everton.

"But you can't deny that his every move now appears aimed at creating a legacy" I can deny that. He went to AC Milan to play football at a high level. They have a great track record of getting to most out of older players with their unique fitness system and facilities. It tied in with him wanting to play for England who told him he has to be very fit to play. In fact by going to Milan he reduced his chance of injury keeping fit ready to play for his country by playing for a club whose very system was set up to avoid injuries after losing money on Redondo.

Sure he has been doing a lot of work for various comittees and if you want to see that as it being for himself more than helping his country than so be it.

He wants to play football in the Premier League and people get their knickers in a twist because he has made money and now come back. If a team want him what the hell is the problem? Other MLS players do it. He is not forcing himself on Spurs, they want him. No matter what Beckham does it is viewed with total suspicion because people love to hate. If he came to Lincoln you would probably be against it but Lord knows Broughton and Facey could do with the supply.

Comment by ZoltanBuchan 2011-01-04 20:23:17

Villa, Newcastle and West Ham want, maybe even need him for footballing reasons. Unless he can play centre-back though, Spurs is a joke move. Still quite like to see it though, I always quite liked him, and continue to do so.

I speak for many, many (but by no means all, obviously) Scotland supporters in admiring and envying Beckham's commitment to his national team. Good luck to him.

Comment by imp 2011-01-04 21:08:03

Coral wrote: If he came to Lincoln you would probably be against it but Lord knows Broughton and Facey could do with the supply.

Ooh, get you. You're probably right, though - Lincoln doesn't have a history of signing novelty players.

Beckham's "unfortunate injury", as you put it (you should do his PR), came about because he's too into himself to see that he's too old to play year round, and at international level too. If he cared about LA, he wouldn't put himself at such a risk at a time of his career when his injuries have become increasingly frequent. As for Milan, you should do their PR as well - they may be good at looking after aging crocks, but it hasn't done much for their trophy haul the past few years. Maybe players in decline like to play for a club in decline, so in that sense Beckham was a good fit.

ZoltanB - I've never had anything against him as a player either. But if he really cared that much about England, he'd have retired from international football years ago.

Comment by Coral 2011-01-04 21:57:23

Nothing to do with being a Milan PR man, everything to do with a knowledge of their sport's science methods and how it gets the most out of players near the end of their career's. Beckham made use of this in order to make sure his old body didn't come to harm. Sensible approach from someone who is perfectly entitled to want to play for hd country, something a lot of other players haven't done. Gerrard probably won't play as many games as beckham has for England, but then that would have nothing to do with mystery illnesses that prevent him from playing yet beckham avoids.

Your anger on this issue amuses me, note how I make a point without a few petty insults about being a PR man. Apparently people aren't allowed to hold different views to you. So on that note I am going to presume that grobbelar to Lincoln wasn't a novelty signing and that the last manager was a shrewd choice?

Comment by imp 2011-01-05 02:46:18

"Beckham made use of this in order to make sure his old body didn't come to harm."

Did he really? So he faked the torn achilles tendon?

I'm glad that I amuse you (after all, one must have an aim in life), although it's a generous leap to interpret indignation at Beckham's abuse of his contract with MLS as anger. And you are of course "allowed to hold different views", just as I'm allowed to hold different views back again. It's called a debate.

Comment by Coral 2011-01-05 10:45:29

A debate is stretching it, it also appears I am not allowed to hold a different view because it makes me his PR man. You get a bit arsey and make a snipey comment, that is hardly a debate and more a case of you making "hillarious" put downs and not really coming back with anything. Some point about him not helping England by playing and something about him abusing his contract in a way Donnovan never would.

"Did he really? So he faked the torn achilles tendon?" No but the point is he tried to reduce the likelihood of such an injury. He could have done it while waling to dog or going for a jog. The medical staff would have looked for signs of injury, this was just unfortunate. The bigger blow was him not playing for England and I very much doubt it was in his plans to get injured for the World Cup.

If he is abusing his contract then LA Galaxy have the power to cancel it. They haven't so all seems well.

Comment by The Exploding Vole 2011-01-05 12:32:43

An interesting debate.

Comment by imp 2011-01-05 13:25:59

"No but the point is he tried to reduce the likelihood of such an injury."

That sentence beggars belief. The point is that if you declare to the world that you're on a one-man mission to grow the game of football in the United States, you don't gad off to Serie A at the age of 34 prior to a long MLS season and risk getting injured playing in one of the world's most competitive leagues.

If LA cancels his contract they'd have to pay it in full, so what would be the point in that?

Comment by UncleTupelo 2011-01-05 20:07:15

@ Coral

"...you must agree the MLS is an irrelevance in world football."

That's a pretty depressing attitude to have to the sport. In your head, football is irrelevant outside of a handful of European leagues.

If MLS is irrelevant to world football, then so are the Mexican league, the Scandinavian leagues, the J-League, etc... I'm not sure what the criteria is so that you ARE relevant on the world footballing stage. Attendance wise, finance wise, quality wise, the MLS is among the top, say, 25 leagues in the world. What's to be sniffed at there?

Comment by Coral 2011-01-06 10:08:17

"I'm not sure what the criteria is so that you ARE relevant on the world footballing stage" I think each fan knows what that is. Who wins the Spanish title or the English title is significant to more than just their countries people. Go to China or Japan and see if they know any English or Spanish teams. Then ask them about the US and their league. I don't mean to put Major League down, but to most players of a world standing it is not relevant.

Comment by TheRedMax 2011-01-06 13:43:31

I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that if imp and Coral were having this "debate" face to face, eventually they would succumb to their innermost feelings and lock lips in a passionate embrace.

Comment by Lincoln 2011-01-06 17:18:18

Fair point on global viewing. In terms of who is best known around the world, Beckham or MLS I think I know which one is top. So then I wonder who has benefited most from their relationship. But then one of them has an unlikeable wife, a silly voice, and shockingly for a footballer is a bit dim.

Comment by HORN 2011-01-06 18:53:48

Brilliant, TheRedMax.

Comment by imp 2011-01-06 19:26:48

I've already nailed all his/her arguments, so a kiss would be nothing much.

Comment by Coral 2011-01-07 09:50:21

Looks like you wouldn't need me as you're too busy blowing your own trumpet. In the same way you have "nailed my arguements" you probably presume the Earth moved for me as well. As a courtesy I put the seat up after pissing all over your arguements.

Comment by imp 2011-01-07 15:19:44

Oh give over, it was just a quip. As in, "Learn to spell 'argument' before you try winning one."

Looks like 'Arry expects the peripatetic poser at White Hart Lane by Sunday. Will you be out with the Fan Club to welcome him?

Comment by Coral 2011-01-09 20:51:54

Full apologies over spelling, probably means Beckham is a bad man for going to Spurs, I have let him down.
No unlikely to be able to make it, will probably watch him if I am at a game against Spurs but will take it or leave it. Hopefully you will get to see him too

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