He came. He saw. He finally conquered.
It took five years and cost upwards of 30 million dollars. Along the way he upset team-mates and fans, frustrated coaches and battled career threatening injuries. But ultimately David Beckham emerged a winner and Major League Soccer can count its blessings.
Soccer is never about one player. It is quintessentially a team sport in which all the members share the joy of victory or disappointment of defeat. Every player must do their job and take individual responsibility if the team, as a whole, is to be successful.
Yet every team has an icon. One who is, quite simply, better than the rest. One who can do what others can't. A game changer, who attracts praise and courts controversy, provokes discussion and sells tickets. But, in the final analysis, you would rather he was playing for you than against you.
Beckham has spent the last five seasons striving for success with LA Galaxy. He eventually scaled the summit on a soggy November night, helping to burst Houston's big orange bubble. By achieving his professional goal, the former England captain did more than lift another trophy in another country.
Much more. Love him or loathe him, Beckham has changed the face of professional soccer in North America.
It doesn't matter if you view him as an egotistical, narcissistic, over-paid, over-the-hill, one-man-circus who only signed on so his wife could shop till she dropped on Rodeo Drive. The point is you have an opinion. And that's what matters.
LA Galaxy literally broke the mould when it pursued and persuaded Beckham to leave Europe. Barely six months after the 2006 World Cup in Germany, and with his contract at Real Madrid coming to an end, it seemed inconceivable that an American franchise could tempt him to join a league composed largely of journeymen pros and college graduates.
MLS had to change its own financial structure to allow him to play in North America. But it had to do so in a way which would not jeopardize the League's fiscal viability. It is what we now know as the Designated Player rule, designed specifically for Beckham, whose annual wages comfortably dwarfed the salary caps of entire clubs.
His presence brought awareness, credibility and star appeal to a sport and an organisation which had hitherto, on this continent, been perceived as anything but Major league. His influence attracted wealthy sponsors and fellow professionals. MLS has become a plausible option for players looking for a fresh start or a new challenge.
Many clubs, including both existing Canadian franchises have invested in Designated Players. The Montreal Impact, which will join MLS in the New Year, is giving serious consideration to employing a DP from the outset. The bar has been raised as has the fans' expectations. None of it would have happened without Beckham.
More than 30-thousand wet souls came to pay homage at the Home Depot Center. They were treated to a desperate finale lacking in flair in finesse. In the blink of an eye Beckham combined with his fellow DP's, Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan to create the game's only true moment of quality. The League's best team won a terrible game to complete Beckham's American odyssey.
Fittingly the trophy was presented to the man whose name it bears. Philip Anschutz, a founding father of MLS, still owns the Galaxy and pays Beckham's exorbitant salary. To him it was worth every cent. Without such committed investors pro-soccer in North America will forever lurk on the periphery of the sporting landscape.
Beckham's work here is done. Yes he arrived injured and yes he engineered temporary deals with Milan and yes he attended Royal Weddings when he should have been working. But he also fulfilled his
raison d'être. He did what he said he would do from the get-go; he made a difference.
He confounded his critics to leave Madrid a winner and now he'll trade Beverly Hills for a Parisian mansion if the French press is to be believed. No-one seriously thought he would quit Europe for America, so don't be surprised should he return to one Europe's less glamorous leagues.
At 36 his playing days are numbered. Beckham knows it better than anyone but he's not finished with football. Captaining Great Britain's Olympic team as an 'overage' player is on his 'to-do' list in 2012. Only the most cynical observer, or a Scotsman perhaps, would object to him wearing the armband for Team GB.
All's well that ends well. The Galaxy got their money's worth in merchandise sales. MLS got its most famous import to lift its trophy and even embrace Donovan. And Beckham signed off as a champion again just playing the game he loves.
And what if Mrs. Beckham did demand their home be close to an exclusive shopping district? David Beckham knows what all married men know - happy wife, happy life.
Back to accessibility links