Former England skipper David Beckham is looking increasingly likely to leave LA Galaxy when his contract with the MLS club expires at the end of December, with the megabucks on offer at the Qatari-owned, French capital club, Paris Saint-Germain, his most likely destination.
The veteran midfielder won the MLS Cup on Sunday evening, as his Galaxy side won 1-0 against Houston Dynamo, but the post-match celebrations and press conference had more than a feeling of farewell for the star.
So far he has made no commitment with regards to his future either way, not giving the declaration of love and intent to continue bringing the game of soccer to America that his MLS paymasters will have unquestionably been looking for, and he told BBC Radio 1: “I have a decision to make and I haven’t made it yet. I’ve got options, which is amazing at my age. A couple of big European clubs are after me.
“I’ve looked after myself and still feel I can play at the top level. At the moment I’m still a Galaxy player and I said I’d finish this season, respect the contract I signed, which I’ve always done, and then sit down with my family and see how I feel and what’s going to be best.
“I still love playing and want to play. There’s no question I want to carry on playing.”
Albeit, whilst he is non-committal about his future in Los Angeles and continues to be tipped to link up once again with his former AC Milan manager Leonardo – now Director of Football at PSG – Beckham is keeping his own counsel, only saying he is yet to begin talks with the French club.
“I have not spoken to Leonardo actually, he sent me a message of good luck but I have not spoken to him about a PSG move,” he told Sky Sports News.
“Whenever a big club comes in for you it’s a temptation. At 36, to still have a big European club after me means a lot.”
However, Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), who own 70% of PSG, are coveting Beckham “the brand”, every bit as much as the player himself, if not more.
The Qatar-owned TV station al-Jazeera have just concluded a deal to show French football from 2012-2016, in conjunction with Canal+, worldwide, and it is the general manager of al-Jazeera Sport – Nasser al-Khelaifi – who is also President of PSG. Indeed the relationships between PSG, Qatar and France as a whole are becoming more intertwined, especially with France and Qatar currently trading strongly, and al-Khelaifi has made his economic reasons for attracting Beckham to the Parc des-Princes known.
“David Beckham goes beyond the sport. He is an ambassador, he is a brand, he is an example to others” al-Khelaifi told L’Equipe, before adding, “But he is also still a very good football player.”
The talk of the “project” at PSG has been of building a side based around the best, young French players, both purchased from across Ligue 1 – the likes of Kevin Gameiro, Blaise Matuidi and Jeremy Menez – and harnessed from within – Mamadou Sakho – teaming them with ‘marquee’ signings like the €45m Argentinian playmaker Javier Pastore. Beckham, one of world football’s true icons and one of the most recognisable people on the planet, would certainly be ‘marquee’.
However, the question then arises: How do you fit the 36-year-old into the PSG line-up?
So far this season, the Ligue 1 leaders have been successful making use of Antoine Kombouare’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, a formation in which a right-sided midfielder without pace, like Beckham, has no natural home.
He isn’t quick or skillful enough to play on the right of the attacking trio behind the lone striker – it is in that position that French international Menez, the €9m summer signing from Roma, has been occupying – nor is he a player defensively astute enough to play in the holding duo in front of the back four.
In his favour, he does have the passing range to play as a deep-lying playmaker in that position, alongside an energetic destroyer like Matuidi. Yet, his lack of naturality and defensive diligence in that role, make him far from suited, especially when Mathieu Bodmer, the former Olympique Lyonnais powerhouse, has been in good form in that position this season.
A solution could be to change the shape of the side, perhaps to a 4-3-3 formation with Beckham in a right-central midfield area, alongside both Bodmer and Matuidi. However, in this shape there is no natural position for Pastore, the languid trequarista for whom the 4-2-3-1 formation at PSG is purposefully built, so as to get him in his favoured (and best) number 10 position, playing in between the lines, looking to use his passing ability to free wingers Menez & Nene, and also to create chances for striker Gameiro. A similar issue arises with a 4-4-2 formation – No natural spot for Pastore.
A potential alternative could be to do away with the wingers and change the formation to a 4-3-1-2, thus allowing Beckham to come into the right of the midfield trio and keeping Pastore in his free role behind a front two – or to a 4-3-2-1 formation with Pastore and a partner behind Gameiro.
Nevertheless, the most consistently-outstanding player for PSG over the last 15 months has been the Brazilian winger Nene, a fan-favourite with the Parisian support. Kombouare, Leonardo and QSI would come under fire were the wingers place given away merely to accomodate Beckham.
Furthermore, to change a (so-far) successful side, formation and style to accomodate the arrival of Beckham, ageing legs and all, would not be a good move for QSI, as it has the potential to cause friction in their relationship with the club’s support, which has thus far been only welcoming to the money being put into the club from the resources-rich Gulf state.
But besides that, what if Beckham simply isn’t good enough to warrant a first team place anymore?
Regardless of the off-field benefits, if, as Chris Waddle suggests, Beckham struggles to perform and his arrival proves detrimental to a team that has struggled for success in recent years, then what?
“I keep up with French football and Beckham would be lucky to get the occasional 10 minutes in that team” Waddle, the former England and Marseille midfielder said in his column in the People.
“Signing Beckham at 36 years old would be a publicity stunt.
“It would be window dressing for sponsors and something to raise the profile of the club off the pitch, not on it.”
It would be nice to disagree with Waddle and say that would not be the case, if and when Beckham makes the Parc des Princes his new home. But when thinking about who out of the PSG front six – Matuidi, Bodmer, Menez, Pastore, Nene or Gamiero – you would drop to accomodate the former Manchester United and Real Madrid man, I honestly wouldn’t pick the man who represented the Three Lions with such distinction. After his time in the United States, you seriously have to question if Beckham still has what it takes to perform in a top European league.
Nonetheless, with Qatar looking to use their sporting arm to make worldwide statements of intent before their hosting of the 2022 World Cup, and with Beckham looking ready to cross back over the Atlantic exchanging Los Angeles for Paris, we may soon be about to find out.
However, not all fairytales have happy ending’s and perhaps Beckham is set become merely another piece of expensive window dressing, in an already expensive city.