Bad days for MLS: The Beckham Affair

January 29, 2009 at 5:20 am | Posted in General Football, Vancouver Whitecaps | Leave a comment

David Beckham is having the time of his life… Not in Los Angeles as anticipated, but in Milan playing for the Rossoneri.  When Beckham signed for LA, it appeared that his England days were over.  In spite of being England’s best player at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, new England manager Steve McLaren dropped him from the squad. England promptly plummeted and failed to qualify for the Euro championships.  Mclaren was fired and Fabio Capello took over.  Capello was Beckham’s manager at Real Madrid when Beckham made clear his decision to go to LA.  Capello dropped Beckham from the squad.  Beckham refused to give up, and when Capello thought Beckham had served his penalty and when he needed him in the squad, Capello played Beckham in the push for La Liga’s title challange.  Real Madrid won the title, and many credit the decision to play Beckham as being key to that title win. 

Having won his title with Real Madrid after three years of frustration, Beckham began his career as a football missionary in America.  A bad ankle injury made his debut season in LA fizzle.   Beckham still harboured dreams of playing for England again.  Capello was appointed England manager.  Having helped Capello win La Liga, Beckham’s heart began to beat quickly with the possibility of playing for England again.  Capello made it clear that Beckham needed to be playing regularly for his club team, and thought that the long layoff in MLS would make Beckam unfit and lazy.  Beckham played his way back into the England squad nevertheless.   

When LA’s poor 2008 season came to an end without a playoff run, Beckham faced a long layoff while the season in Europe charged on.  He flirted with the idea of training with teams like Arsenal.  Meanwhile AC Milan was suffering through a dreadful injury crisis with several starters laid low by injury.   Beckham had been sought by Milan previously in his career but the deal never came off.  His dream of playing for Milan came true with a loan deal which would run until early March 2009.  Milan is the club that Capello both played for and managed with great success.

Beckham has played three serie A games for Milan and scored a goal last Sunday.  He is clearly enjoying himself immensely.  His prospects of playing for England in another World Cup are very good.  He is playing in one of the top leagues with a top club in world football.  Contrast this with his fate in MLS:  LA was an absolute gong show this year.   The management was poor, the team was awful.   The LA Galaxy were an absolute shambles in the 2008 season. When NASL brought Pele to play in 1975, they made sure he played for the biggest and best team so that his talent would shine and be showcased.  When Beckham came to LA I am sure that it was his personal goal to win the MLS championship. 

In his career, Beckham played for Manchester United and Real Madrid before he went to LA.  He is used to playing with top players and for top managers.  To play for poor management with poor players must be very frustrating for a player who can still perform at the top level.  MLS has so far fumbled the ball in presenting Beckham to the public. Beckham is not a show pony with fabulous individual skills.  He is a superb team player who locks in with his teammates, motivating them to play better.  Beckham feeds off of his team mate’s skills and efforts and complements his teammates well. His dead ball skills are devastating. He is a better player than his critics give him credit for. Playing Beckham in LA is like putting a superb orchestra player in a community orchestra.   The team cannot rise to his level, and without good team mates, Beckham can only do so much. Beckham also likes to win.  He has not played for a team which is so poor in its league in his career.  His talents would be able to shine if he was with a better team in MLS.

The fact that Beckham wants to play for Milan is bad news for MLS and throws the league into crisis.  Becks has significantly improved MLS attendance when LA plays on the road, and his presence has made a big publicity splash for the league.  If Beckham leaves, it will deflate the league.  The timing could not be worse for the credit crunched MLS.   I can only imagine the crisis talks which must be taking place behind the scenes.   The MLS will have to have a contingency plan in place if Beckham buys out his contract or if Milan makes an offer the league can’t refuse. Had Beckham played with a winning team in MLS which allowed his talents to shine, the scenario might well have been different…

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