David Beckham fires back at Pele
David Beckham says the Los Angeles Galaxy knew what they were getting when they signed him to play Major League Soccer.
The former England captain was responding to criticism from soccer legend Pele, who said American fans were misled into thinking Beckham would be a goal scorer in the league.
"The Galaxy wouldn't have come out and said that," Beckham said Wednesday after the Galaxy played to a 0-0 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps in an international friendly before 48,172 fans.
"The Galaxy brought me in because I'm a football player. Everybody in the world knows I'm not a goal scorer.
"Everyone has their own opinion. Pele is a great player and a great ambassador for the game."
Pele told the Associated Press that American soccer fans were given the impression Beckham would be a goal scorer.
"They announced him as a scorer of goals," Pele said during an interview in Sheffield, England.
"He isn't a goal scorer. That was a mistake."
Amid great fanfare, Beckham signed a five-year, $32.5-million US deal with the Galaxy and was introduced by the team in July.
But his greatest impact this season has been on ticket sales and merchandise, not on the field.
The 32-year-old is more adept at delivering crosses and setting up teammates. In five league games, the former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder scored one goal— from a trademark free kick —before being sidelined with a knee injury for seven weeks.
"Beckham wants to be the star and that's his big problem," Pele said, referring to Beckham's injuries.
"It is not easy to play in American soccer, because it is very tough."
Beckham refused to be baited.
"Like I said, everyone has their own opinion," he said. "I respect him [Pele] as a footballer.
"Everyone respects him all over the world as a footballer."
Pele brought NASL publicity
Pele, a three-time World Cup-winning Brazil striker, generated similar publicity for the North America Soccer League when he made his debut for the New York Cosmos in 1975.
"The first year was very tough for me because Cosmos was a young team," Pele said. "Later on we had Franz Beckenbauer, Giorgio Chinaglia and Carlos Alberto. We set up a good team."
More than 75,000 New York fans saw his final match two years later, when he played the first half with the Cosmos and the second half with his former Brazilian team, Santos.
But soccer then struggled to compete with more established American sports or generate publicity— until Beckham's arrival.
Pele believes MLS players' salaries need to be raised to the level of American football or baseball players.
He also wants restrictions lifted on player movements, which are designed to stop wealthy teams from amassing the best players.
"This was one of the mistakes," Pele said. "They have to give freedom to the owners of the teams to buy the players and [choose] which players they want to put [out].
"The big mistake in the league now is to control the level of the teams. If they opened this up, it would be much better."