Soccernet reported this morning that lawyers for David Beckham are negotiating with the Los Angeles Galaxy about how to get Beckham out of his contract, allowing him to stay with AC Milan – where he is currently playing on a loan agreement that ends March 9.
Now, to understand this whole deal, you need to listen to the latest Fighting Talker podcast, available here. We interviewed Grant Wahl who had interesting takes on the subject, and who in fact is writing a book about the whole Beckham years with the Galaxy.
One of Wahl’s main points is that the media across the pond is taking this story farther along than it really is. I think this is probably true. Hell, for all we know from this story – Beckham could have just retained a lawyer regarding the situation. The story says the sides are “talking” but there’s been no “dealings.” Sounds like a lot of phone tag – perhaps one-way phone tag, to me.
But there’s much more to consider here.
First, it’s highly doubtful that only the Galaxy would be involved in any such “negotiations.” This is a front-and-center issue for Major League Soccer (if, in fact, it’s a real issue). Beckham’s departure affects far more than just the Galaxy on the field in 2009. It affects the marketing strategies of every other team in the league, who try and boost ticket sales (and maybe prices) when Beckham comes to town. It affects the league because their main topic of conversation, the person that gets them farther up than the 14th page of the sports section in most cities, is gone – while also removing a drawing card for TV. Not to mention the energy it would give the vultures in the press who would love to see Beckham go, since they could then launch that into diatribes on the alleged demise of the league.
I have been on the record as saying Beckham has played his last game in MLS. But I don’t know if it’s going to be a clean break with his guys talking to the LA guys and boom, there you go. It seems too simple, to be honest. There’s too much on the line for Los Angeles, and the league overall, to not put up a fight in this deal – even the fight itself turns out to be more symbolic than effective. This is a league that has held out in selling players of far lesser names to clubs of lesser renown (sometimes with good intent, I’m sure). They aren’t simply going to go to the local credit union and deposit a check and let Beckham wander off.
This is a big test for MLS – perhaps the biggest the league has faced. Even if, like me, you believe Beckham is destined to go, the league has no choice but to put up a fight here, from a financial and public relations standpoint, before signing on the dotted line for any deal that lets Beckham not come back.
On the bright side, it gives everyone something to talk about until the season opens on March 19.