Off to the Graveyard; Footballing Genius David Beckham Is Headed across the Atlantic. Is This a New Beginning-Or Just the End?

Newsweek International, January 22, 2007 | Go to article overview

Off to the Graveyard; Footballing Genius David Beckham Is Headed across the Atlantic. Is This a New Beginning-Or Just the End?


Byline: Malcolm Beith (With Patrick Falby)

And so, an era is over. After more than a decade of delighting English football fans at Manchester United and Spanish aficionados at Real Madrid, David Beckham is coming to America. But is it the right move? Responding to a reported $250 million, five-year deal with the L.A. Galaxy, The Independent of London blared leaving real life for la-la-land.

Most football pundits would argue that Beckham has been in La-la Land for some time now. At the very least, he's become too big for his boots. In 1998, Beckham broke a nation's collective heart at the World Cup semifinal when he petulantly kicked Argentina's Diego Simeone. The resulting red card sent England home in tears. (I was in a pub in London, and have never seen so many grown men bawl.) Then there was his wedding to Posh Spice. Deemed 1999's celebrity wedding of the year, it came complete with golden thrones for the bride and groom, as well as a crown for her "majesty." Sponsored by everyone from Gillette to Motorola, Beckham the brand has become far more popular than Beckham the player in recent years. Shirts bearing his name are on sale in markets from Bangkok to--somewhat ironically, given the rivalry with Argentina--Buenos Aires. In 2003, Real Madrid admitted to having signed him primarily for his ability to fill seats and sell merchandise, as opposed to his golden right foot. He has his own Adidas shoe, and there's even a David Beckham cologne (Instinct by Coty). Beckham is now so valuable as a commodity that he is represented by Simon Fuller, the man who made the Spice Girls household names and created Pop Idol (then sold the show's concept to American television, and the rest is history).

For all the branding, true fans will remember Beckham differently. The shy, mild-mannered boy from East London climbed his way up from Manchester United's youth side to become one of the most creative players in the history of the game. Few could have pulled off his halfway-line goal of the season against Wimbledon in 1996, and his consistently dazzling playmaking for Manchester United in its '90s heyday solidified the legend.

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