David Beckham pledged to donate his salary to a children's charity Thursday after signing a five-month contract with Paris-Saint Germain, the latest stop on his globe-trotting career.
The 37-year-old former England captain joined PSG after turning down several other offers and pledging to effectively play for free. No financial details were given as to how much Beckham's salary would be or the name of the charity. The decision was taken early Thursday morning.
Beckham dominates an otherwise subdued transfer day
David Beckham lit up a subdued transfer deadline day in Europe by securing perhaps the final move of his globetrotting career, a surprise short-term deal with ambitious French club Paris Saint-Germain.
Mario Balotelli, a headline-grabber at the opposite end of his football career, finalized his switch from Manchester City to AC Milan for (euro)20 million ($27 million). Otherwise, there was plenty of speculation but precious little activity as the January window prepared to shut on Thursday.
With economic problems continuing to hit the continent hard, top clubs have also been forced to rein in their spending to ensure they adhere to UEFA's strict financial fair play rules.
The English Premier League, usually the scene of last-gasp trolley dashes among clubs, was largely quiet while Inter Milan was the busiest of Serie A's major teams but only to bring in four unheralded names.
Nothing, though, was ever going to upstage PSG's signing of Beckham, who moves to the French capital on a five-month deal during which time he will donate his salary to a local children's charity.
"I am 37 years old and I got offered a lot of offers, more offers now than I have probably had in my career," said the former England captain, who revealed he rejected bids from Premier League teams.
"I can still run around, I can still play as I did when I was 21 years old."
Where Beckham fits in at PSG is another question entirely. Once he regains his match fitness, he will likely have to settle for a bit-part role with the French league leaders, who are close to becoming the modern-day "galacticos" with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva among the big names already at the club.
"I'm excited about the challenge," Beckham said. "I love the challenge wherever I have played, whatever league or culture I have played in."
Balotelli, who has been afforded hero status since his return to Italy on Wednesday, completed his move to Milan early Thursday, ending a turbulent 2 1/2-year stint at City where he was rarely out of the headlines for his behaviour on and off the pitch.
"Being at City was an important part of my life and career," the 22-year-old Balotelli said. "I needed to grow up like a player and as a person and it has been a very good experience for me."
Elsewhere in Italy, Napoli signed FC Porto defender Rolando on loan, Mohamed Sissoko joined Fiorentina on loan from PSG and Inter's signings were teenager Mateo Kovacic, Zdravko Kuzmanovic, Ezequiel Schelotto and Juan Pablo Carrizo.
In England, last-minute deals were mainly confined to the Premier League's strugglers, with last-place Queens Park Rangers sealing the biggest signing by bringing in giant defender Christopher Samba from Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala for a reported club-record fee of 12 million pounds ($19 million).
In a bizarre twist late on deadline day, Nigeria striker Peter Odemwingie drove to London from central England in an attempt force a move from West Bromwich to QPR. West Brom released a statement saying Odemwingie had been denied permission to talk to QPR and he was barred entrance to Loftus Road.
Bundesliga clubs in Germany also resisted the urge to splash out on deadline day, with relegation-threatened Hoffenheim bringing in Tottenham's third-choice goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes on loan in the biggest move.
"It's something we [decided] together, it's one of the things we talked about from the start. But this all happened so quick," Beckham said. "I thought what a great idea it would be, that the salary would go to a children's charity in Paris."
Beckham's glamorous career has seen him win titles with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Los Angeles Galaxy.
"Every club I have played for throughout the world, I have been successful with. I have been successful with Manchester United, and I have always said that I would never want to play for another English club," Beckham said. "It's the team that I support, that I always dreamt of playing for."
Beckham recently finished a six-year stint in the United States with the Galaxy. Whether he can still be a force in European football is still uncertain.
"I am very lucky. I am 37 years old and I got offered a lot of offers, more offers now than I have probably had in my career, at my age," Beckham said. "I am very honoured about that. I chose Paris because I can see what the club are trying to do, the players the club are trying to bring in. It's an exciting city, always has been, always will be."
Beckham was close to joining PSG last year, discussing a potential move with sporting director Leonardo as PSG desperately chased a big name to match its new-found status and seemingly endless funds from its Qatari backers.
Likes direction of club
But the move fell through and PSG moved on to other targets, capturing striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, his AC Milan teammate Thiago Silva, Napoli winger Ezequiel Lavezzi and Brazilian prodigy Lucas.
"I felt last year that I still had something to achieve in Los Angeles. I won the championship in the last year of my contract and yes, we spoke to Leo a number of times but I think we both came to the thought that it wasn't the right time," Beckham said. "So we parked it and decided that right now is the right time because I was at the end of my contract last year. I accepted one more year in Los Angeles, I won another championship, another trophy in Los Angeles and I believe it was the right time to leave."
Early Thursday, the move was finally done. And shortly before noon, the much-travelled Beckham made the short flight to Paris.
"This literally all happened at 1 a.m. this morning and was finalized when I got on the plane at 11 a.m.," Beckham said. "Right now, I have a few things to sort out with my children and the schooling and a few other things. I have been training at Arsenal. My fitness won't take long to get up to speed. I definitely won't be fit for next Friday. A few weeks and I'll be up to speed."
While he was on the flight, Beckham agreed on a novel way of putting his big salary to good use.
"We decided on something that is quite unique — I won't receive any salary. We have decided that my salary will go towards a local children's charity in Paris. And that's one of things we are very excited and proud to be able to do," he said. "It's something I'm not sure has been done before, and it's something I'm very passionate about, children and the charity side of things, and so are the club. We came together and it's something special."
Although Beckham's deal runs out in June, he intends to carry on playing, although whether or not that will still be with PSG remains to be decided. However, he is eager to have a long-term role at the club.
"We slightly brushed over it, a long-term partnership is what we have looked for," he said. "Short-term is playing but long-term is something we are very proud to be part of this organization that will grow and become one of the biggest in Europe."
Immaculately dressed and groomed, Beckham was a model of elegance and calm as camera crews and photographers jostled for the best positions amid frenzied scenes in a tightly packed press room. He even joked that he feels much younger than his age.
"To be the elder statesman, I'm very proud of that," Beckham said. "No matter what my age is, I still feel 21 years old — most days."