Is this the Beckham exit strategy?

Ed seems to think that Beckham’s apparent loan to Milan is part of his eventual exit from the Galaxy and MLS, saying:

My gut feeling is that Beckham has already played his final game in MLS.

The exit strategy has begun.

Really? Maybe I was had, but I really thought that Beckham was sincere in his desire to make the Galaxy a good team and that he was serious in his long-term commitment to MLS. There is a very good case to made right now that the Galaxy cannot get better as long as Beckham is on the roster, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is only of the two high-salary guys weighing down that roster. If I was in the LA front office, (not Bruce Arena) I know which one I’d jettison first and it wouldn’t be Beckham.

It goes without saying that from a purely soccer perspective, the Galaxy would be better served with Landon compared to Beckham. But, ever since the Becks signing, nothing the Gals have done has been done with a “purely soccer perspective” in mind. If I were a Gals fan, I’d probably be thrilled that Becks could be leaving. Since his signing, (or maybe it was the Sigi firing), the Gals have ceased to a soccer club in the traditional sense of being a group of individuals with a like-minded passion for winning soccer matches. Instead, it’s now this sort of this testbed for every “cutting-edge” bit of sports marketing and branding exercise someone with an MBA has ever come up with.

Without a doubt, that testbed has helped MLS in a grander financial sense. Would players like Gallardo or Schelotto or even Huckerby had come to MLS without Beckham’s previous arrival? I don’t know the answer to that. Is it fair that MLS sort of sacrificed one of its teams’ on-field performance for the sake of the greater financial health of the league? (Though LA really did it by itself, didn’t it?).

I am worried about how the Beckham in MLS experience ends. If he just goes, says its so he can stay in the England picture, and hopes there are no hard feelings, then maybe the PR hit isn’t too big. My fear is that his experience with the “marketing testbed” that is the LA Galaxy was a really poisonous one – and one he’s all too ready to share with the first person that can sit him down about it. As important as his arrival was, it’s like so many major events (sports and otherwise) in that the exit strategy is, in many ways, even more important than the entrance strategy.

I hope LA and MLS can get this right. Otherwise a lot of the good that Beckham’s arrival has done for the league could be wiped away in an instant.


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