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Beckham Turns Down Paris to Stay in U.S.

Published: January 3, 2012 | 8:33 pm
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The Beckhams are going nowhere fast.

Following a month of media hype in France, it was announced on January 3 that Paris Saint-Germain had given up its quest to tempt David Beckham to play for its newly enriched team. He is expected to take up a one-year option to remain with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

For once, it isn’t about the money.

Beckham was reportedly offered an 18-month contract, at $1 million a month, to join the revolution at Parc des Princes in Paris. His base salary in the United States, where he is a marketing figure as much as an athlete, is about half that sum.

But as a lifestyle choice, this is a no-brainer. David and Victoria Beckham, now 36 and 37, are in middle age. They have four children, the eldest three of school age. And, as Jürgen Klinsmann of Germany found before them, family life for an internationally known soccer star is so much more natural on the beaches of California than in the publicity zoo they face in Europe or indeed Asia when they travel.

This, for the Beckhams, is a double-edged situation. They work hard to create their own images and can step inside or outside the Hollywood bowl of publicity as they please. They have an estimated fortune of more than $200 million, and rising.

David Beckham, the chief breadwinner in the family, is remarkable in that his celebrity value remains high beyond an age when a sportsman is reckoned to be selling his deteriorating value. Victoria has transformed herself from a Spice Girl to a fashion designer in her own right.

The Beckham brands might have met their biggest challenge yet in the French capital. The jury is out on whether Victoria Beckham could have cut it in the city of haute couture. But the royal family of Qatar, which acquired a 70 percent holding of P.S.G. in June and has sunk more than $100 million into purchasing players, believed Beckham could be still be a viable player and bring global attention to its latest sporting franchise.

“He will not come, it’s clear,” Nasser al-Khelaifi, the businessman who now heads P.S.G., said on January 3. “David is in Los Angeles, and will stay there. We feel a little disappointed, but both sides agree it would be better that we do not do the deal today. Maybe in the future.”

The future is one of diminishing returns for Beckham, the sportsman. The injuries that limited his playing time on the Galaxy were compensated for, U.S. soccer advisers say, by the awareness his name and face brought to America.

At the very highest levels of skill, however, Beckham never was the complete player. Yes, he could famously bend the flight of a ball from free kicks. Yes, he contributed selflessly to the teamwork of Manchester United, Real Madrid and, when he was fit and not jet-lagged, to the Galaxy and A.C. Milan.

But the reasons that Ryan Giggs, for example, can still command a contract with Manchester United at the age of 38, and will be offered a year’s extension to that next summer, are twofold. Giggs may have lost a gear or two of his fantastic acceleration, but he had pace to lose. Beckham was always one-paced.

And Giggs is, still, an artist with the moving ball.

That is not Beckham’s fault, indeed it is to his credit that he made such a career while lacking those qualities. But while he sustains the childlike desire to run and run for his teams, his stamina is bound to wind down with his years.

Even so, P.S.G. was prepared to pay him more than any other player on its team. Some politicians were prepared to call that a scandal. Eva Joly, a former anti-corruption magistrate who is a Greens candidate in this year’s French presidential elections, called it a shocking salary in light of the economic crises in the euro zone. “At his age, and with the state of his knees,” she was quoted as saying, “he’s going to be selling T-shirts.”

Harsh, but a popular message for the electorate.

Jean-Pierre Raffarin, a conservative former prime minister, had a different slant. “I’m delighted,” he said, “that his wife is coming!”

For now, the angst and the delight are both irrelevant. Though the newspapers and the new owners of P.S.G. had presented it as a closed deal, France will not any time soon welcome the Englishman and his family.

“Beckham,” Khelaifi had told L’Équipe, a sports daily, “is bigger than sport. He is an ambassador, a brand, an example for others. He is also a very good player whose age isn’t a problem.”

Americans can now be the judges of that.

Source: New York Times


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