The news this week of David Beckham leaving the LA Galaxy put clubs around the world on alert. The English midfielder is seeking a new challenge, having achieved everything he wanted in his six year stint in the MLS. After signing a 5 year deal when he moved from Spanish giant Real Madrid, Beckham decided to extend his contract for 1 more year. The contract had a player option for a 2nd year, but he decided not to exercise it. Despite being outside of several transfer windows, David Beckham’s free agent status means he can sign with any club.
Within hours of the announcement of Beckham’s intentions, several clubs had already put their bids forward to his management. Clubs from Australia’s A League were reported to be leading the pack, with many suitors including Melbourne Heart and Adelaide United. Adelaide United has since ruled themselves out of the Beckham competition, realizing they were not in the same ballpark when it came to remuneration. Cashed up French club PSG is rumored to be interested, and would be prepared to outbid any rivals to land his signature. Rapper Snoop Lion, a keen supporter of the game, is interested in buying into Scottish club Celtic, and sees Beckham as the ideal signing. For those who are penchant to a bet, English firm SkyBet has a market up as to where he will land.
Beckham’s management, XIX Entertainment, is a heavyweight in the representation game. Headed by Simon Fuller, the company boasts such A List sports stars as F1 drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, as well as tennis player Andy Murray. Originally based in London, the company moved its headquarters to Los Angeles, which helped Beckham garner several off field deals.
It’s no secret just how much impact David would have on the club he chooses. Prior to him being unveiled as an LA Galaxy player, the club had reportedly sold over 250,000 Beckham jerseys. His signing also contributed to the Galaxy signing a record MLS shirt sponsor deal with Herbalife. Gate receipts and memberships were up, but Beckham’s reach spread much further than LA. The club’s owners saw several doors open for them in Asia, as they were known as the team that had Beckham.
David Beckham is rich, and a decision on his next destination will not come down to money. Similar to many rich sportsmen who have taken less money for a new challenge (See Miami’s Ray Allen), the highest dollar figure won’t be enough. Already ruling out a move laterally in the MLS, many clubs would have already been told thanks, but no thanks. Despite PSG’s dearth of resources and money, Beckham may opt against signing with the team. He has already won the Champions League with Manchester United, Europe’s premier club competition. And despite being close to his native England, his family intend to stay in part in Los Angeles, with David and Victoria owning a mansion in Beverley Hills. Victoria also has several business and media interests in LA.
There is reported interest from clubs in the burgeoning Chinese Super League, a competition that has seen many stars such as Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka move on to lucrative contracts. The League isn’t particularly strong, but David Beckham has a high profile in Asia. This is mainly due to his time spent playing for massive European clubs. Any deal that is done in Asia would have to go beyond a bottom line figure. Areas such as club ownership, a higher percentage of jersey sales and even a percentage of TV rights would be something that Beckham may entertain.
Perth Glory and Melbourne Heart, competing in Australia’s A League, have inquired about the possibility of Beckham coming for a guest stint of 10 games. The bonus of this is that whatever paid to Beckham would fall outside of the salary cap. The league is having its best season yet, with attendances up across the board. Not to mention it has attracted overseas stars such as Alessandro Del Piero and Emile Heskey, who have been sold on the beautiful weather and light schedule.
As I previously mentioned, a single dollar figure isn’t going to be enough to sway David. A unique deal similar to the one that Harry Kewell entered into with the Melbourne Victory could be a starting point. He received a percentage of revenue that he directly brought into the club. Despite his contract ending early, the deal was seen as groundbreaking in sport. Few players are able to dictate that kind of deal and Beckham certainly falls in that category. The club would also need plenty of resources to service a player of his ilk. World class training facilities and a modern stadium would be two categories on his checklist. The league itself would have to be prepared for more exposure, and would need to have the ability to manage this. He would certainly prove a fantastic bargaining tool if the TV rights were up for negotiation.
Lifestyle is something that will be taken under consideration. David isn’t going to move to a city where he can’t continue his way of life, with resources to enable him to maintain and possibly enhance his brand. Having offices of his sponsors would allow him to do this.
At 37, Beckham may be looking for a two year deal, or at the very least, a deal with a 2nd year player option. If a revenue percentage deal is included, he may look for a guaranteed minimum amount (something Harry Kewell didn’t include in his contract). In terms of protecting his sponsors, an exclusivity clause may be added, stating that the club cannot take on any new sponsors that would directly compete with his, as it may tarnish his brand. It’s not uncommon for clubs to sweeten a deal by including free transport for a player’s family, and this may prove enticing for Beckham.
Beckham has said he will make his choice after the MLS Cup in December. Personally, I’d love to see a one hour special similar to ‘The Decision’ LeBron James made when moving to Miami.