David Beckham: Galaxy's Star Still Shines
As another Major League Soccer season draws to an end and the LA Galaxy unlikely to end a four-year trophy drought, the fans vented their anger and blame for the clubs continued lack of success in David Beckham.
Although their disappointment at a failure to compete in the league is understandable, laying the blame solely on the feet of Beckham, is unwarranted.
The primary accusations directed at Beckham are that his performances for Galaxy have been below par and that he hasn't shown the club or the league the respect it deserves.
In Beckham's 17 years as a professional he has played for the world's biggest clubs in Manchester United, Real Madrid, and A.C. Milan. When he moved to Los Angeles, in July 2007, MLS commissioner Don Garber said that it would advance the sport in America.
It is inconceivable to think that the mere signing of the biggest name in the sport over the last decade has not done just that. Attendance rose across the country, 250,000 Galaxy jersey's were sold prior to his arrival and there is no doubt that the MLS is more widely known than it ever has been.
If you take a look at Beckham's statistics as an LA Galaxy player, the fans might be forgiven for their banners of "GO HOME FRAUD" and "23: REPENT."
With an annual salary of around $6.5 million, not including bonuses or sponsorship deals, his return of five goals and twelve assists in just twenty eight starts might not seem like the correct value for money.
Considering he arrived in July and was hampered by injury in his first year and was loaned out to Milan for much of this season, it is not a bad return.
What his critics don't realize is that his performances with Milan and England have been helped by the players around him. It is not necessarily that Beckham is playing any differently with LA Galaxy, but the quality of player he was surrounded by at Milan contributed to his performances there.
One player does not make a team and buying Beckham was never going to make the club a force in MLS.
The friendly against Milan was a perfect example of what Beckham does. He split the defense with a 30-yard pass to find London Donovan who set up Alan Gordon for the easiest of finishes to tie the game at 1-1.
Then, his 65th minute corner was inch perfect, allowing Bryan Jordan to head home the second equalizer of the night. It was a display that mirrored his previous seventeen years as a player.
It was, as most games, a master class in striking the ball. He lacks the pace, creativity, the capability to beat players and the scoring prowess of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka, but he never was that type of player.
There was always going to be a problem when Beckham would leave a team full of world-class players for a team he is expected to carry. The inability of LA Galaxy to compete shows the inability of the team management to build a squad rather than the inability of Beckham.
The outburst from Landon Donovan, questioning Beckham's commitment to the club might have carried more weight had Donovan not spoken out last year of his desire to play in Europe.
It suggested the once golden boy of American football had become frustrated having been unable to secure a permanent move away from MLS.
When given the opportunity, Beckham showed his class at Milan. He remained until the end of the season. When Donovan was given a similar opportunity at Bayern Munich, he failed to make an impression. He returned to LA.
Every player wants to test himself at the highest level of play, and Beckham is no different. If an offer came from a world class team what player in the MLS would turn it down? None, and neither will Beckham.
LA Galaxy's failure to become a force in the league mirrors the bigger problem the MLS has. It continues to throw money at players that are past their peak with players such as Claudio Lopez, 35 years old, Freddie Ljungberg, 32 years old, and the Mexican Blanco 36 years old, all demanding high salaries while contributing little to the league.
Beckham will likely return to Europe after the MLS season ends. Donovan won't be far behind. The future of LA Galaxy and the league as a whole must be built around young players who will improve the quality of the league, not bringing in players on the verge of retirement.
It is inevitable that the best in the league will leave for Europe but it can only benefit the profile of the league by developing players such as Clint Dempsey and Freddy Adu, before selling them on.
Clubs will acquire reputations for developing players and transfer fees can fund bringing young players from the Americas and beyond to the league.
The tradition of bringing big name stars in stretches back to the seventies when Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff boosted attendances. It hasn't worked in the long run. It is time to try a different approach that will make the legacy of Beckham the last of its kind.
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