David Beckham: Where next for the brand?
By Bradley King
It was a soccer match - or at least a loosely defined one. The hordes of paparazzi were there not for goalmouth action and drama but for one man. Jennifer Love Hewitt, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Katie Holmes were watching his every move; half prying, half in awe. It was only a friendly and he only played 12 minutes, but it was the most surreal of debuts. And, of course, such a gathering of celebrity cognoscenti could only happen for one footballer - Mr David Beckham.
David Beckham is, without doubt, the most marketable footballer of all time. With a keenness for fashion and physical upkeep, a pop star wife who is famous in her own right and good looks which allure even the most heterosexual of males, commercial managers across the world lick their lips at the prospect of having the former England captain at their fingertips; a hypnotic selling machine.
Not just that, but he's a pretty decent footballer, too - even at the ripe old age of 37. It's hard to believe that it's over 16 years ago since he magically lobbed Wimbledon goalkeeper Neil Sullivan from inside his own half. What is easier to have faith in however is that, should the opportunity arise, Los Angeles Galaxy's Beckham could feasibly repeat that long-range feat in next weekend's MLS Cup final against Houston Dynamo.
He retains both the technical skill and class from yesteryear that made such a strike possible, while doing his utmost to maintain his fitness as his years tick on. He does a pretty good job at it as well - testament to the fact that plush French giants Paris Saint-Germain attempted to sign him in January and may well enter the race to sign him again this time around.
However with Beckham keen to secure first team football, and with PSG's squad now filled with much more ability than halfway through last season, it seems more likely that the David Beckham tour will head for a more far-flung destination. Teams from Australia, China, Russia and Brazil are all said to be interested in the ex-Manchester United right-sided midfielder.
The early front runners are teams from Australia's A-League but do not be surprised if the move is unexpected. He is not a man to settle for a life of mediocrity and meekness - do not expect a move into the English lower leagues, for example. But he is equally not a man to thrive off a life of fanfare alone. He constantly desires and seeks out challenges and, if he takes one up, the likelihood is that he'll succeed.
Such a statement is backed up by Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber, who spoke of Beckham's achievements after he confirmed he would be leaving the Galaxy. Attendances across the MLS have increased by 21% since Beckham's arrival in 2007. Garber said: "When David Beckham signed with the LA Galaxy in 2007, he set out to help grow MLS and the sport of soccer in North America. There is no doubt that MLS is far more popular and important here and abroad than it was when he arrived."
Wherever Beckham does end up, his new club are guaranteed much more than simply riches and constant media attention. Beckham is a determined man who strives, not only for self-improvement, but for the ambitions of others, namely the vision of a league or club as well.
Oh, and they've got their hands on a decent little player, too.