Thursday, March 1, 2012

The reasons why David Beckham decided to stay with LA Galaxy

Most human decisions involve several interchanging factors that influence the process, especially when involving career and location. David Beckham's choice to remain with LA Galaxy was no different. 

After lifting an absolving, redeeming MLS Cup in November 2011, the English midfielder weighed up his free agent options throughout December. 

"I just needed a break," Beckham said. "I needed to get away, to rest my body and then to decide what I felt was the right move."

Beckham and his family decided to shun lucrative offers from Europe and to remain California, and Becks' return became official on Thursday when he was presented at the Staples Center. 

Let's delve into some of the reasons that came into play during the decision process: 

1. Family first

"My family and my children are the most important thing to me," Beckham said. 

After five years, the family is settled in California. Harper Seven, Beckham's first daughter, was born here last year. The three older brothers are entering formative scholastic and developmental years, and the family didn't want to uproot them. 

"Me and Victoria had talked about it many times," Beckham said. "Our oldest son was a big part of it as well. He's 12 years old. He's at the stage in his life where he needs that stability in his schooling."

2. The lure of Los Angeles

Los Angeles doesn't hold the same mesmerizing aura in person as conveyed in film or song. It's grimier and dirtier and more dilapidated and the traffic is awful. But that's true of any major city, including Paris.  

In the end, LA worked as a net positive in Beckham's decision. A few hours from their home in Beverly Hills are mountains. In the other direction is the beach. In the middle were ample opportunities for the family to build a life worth keeping. 

"We believed in our city," Anschutz Entertainment Group president Tim Leiweke said. "In LA we're proud of the environment we've created here. It's a great place to live. 

"We knew there were a lot of people tugging on [Beckham's] sleeve, but we also knew it'd be hard to replace LA."

One man's maze of concrete highways is another man's home. And home is something very hard to give up. 

"We've been happy here for the past five years," Beckham pointed out. "Why change something that works? The kids love living here, I love living here. Los Angeles has been amazing to us as a family."

3. Olympic pining

Much of the criticism leveled at Beckham, especially during the early years of his MLS contract, was that he cared more about playing internationally than in a Galaxy uniform. 

Though less of an issue since his Achilles injury pushed the 36-year-old irrevocably off of the England national team roster, the club versus country debate has cropped up again. Beckham desperately wants to play in the 2012 London Olympics. 

"Hopefully I'll be involved in the Olympics," he said. "I want to be part of the GB team. I've never played an Olympics personally. I know how exciting it is for our country and our nation to have the Olympics in the east end of London, especially for me growing up in the east end of London."

Beckham even went as far as to suggest that if he doesn't make Stuart Pearce's playing roster, he may join in some sort of coaching or ambassadorial role. 

At the Galaxy he's guaranteed playing time if fit (and sometimes even if not). At Paris Saint-Germain or a Premier League club, that isn't the case. Even if Beckham's ability or drive can't be questioned, why risk missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? He'll be 37 in May; there will certainly never be a chance for him to play in the Olympics again. 

Additionally, MLS's awkward schedule actually works in Beckham's favor in this instance. European leagues will have completed their seasons and entered the summer break by the time the Olympics roll around. Beckham, meanwhile, will be in midseason form with the Galaxy, raring to go. 

As for AEG's role in allowing him dispensation to join Team GB if called up? 

"There's another part of this: We're very active in the Olympics," Leiweke said. "A long time ago we made it clear that we were going to do anything to support the Olympic games in London. 

"David being there is important to us. So we were going to be 100 percent supportive, that was never a question. Even if David didn't ask it, we were going to give it. We want him there. That was never an issue, ever."

4. Growing the game Stateside

"I don't think that my job as an ambassador of the league is finished," Beckham said. 

Immediately following the official announcement of Beckham's new two-year contract Wednesday, rival MLS clubs began trumpeting his upcoming visits to their cities. It's clear Goldenballs is still the golden ticket when it comes to selling tickets in America. 

The Galaxy likely would not have been able to replace his crossover and mainstream appeal, let alone his midfield playmaking duties. 

As soccer continues to carve out its niche in the American psyche, Beckham didn't feel like his role was done. 

"In the last year definitely, in the last two years maybe, I've seen the growth, I've seen the interest change, I've seen the excitement around the country, and I don't want to leave that yet," Beckham explained. "I want to be part of that going forward."

Since Beckham joined the league from Real Madrid in 2007, five new teams have joined MLS. Empirically, MLS is a growing league. 

"We know that David's first love in his life is his family, but he loves playing the game of soccer," Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. "That means that the Galaxy had to be right for him, and the league had to be right. By David coming back to LA he confirms that MLS is making progress, he believes in this sport in America and he believes in the Galaxy. That's important."

5. Ownership option

MLS will likely add a 20th team overall in New York soon. After that, Beckham has a contract clause to buy a franchise at a discount price upon retirement. 

"Everybody knows I have the option of owning a franchise," Beckham admitted. "That excites me."

Leiweke provided more details. 

"He has the right, and he's made this very clear to us so we had to sort this through, that he's going to exercise his option to be an owner in Major League Soccer," Leiweke said. "Unless I'm mistaken, that's his future once he does make a decision to retire. We've structured the league, and the partners in the league have structured that option, in a way that will allow David to become a partner in the league and to operate and run his own franchise."

Most players move into coaching after retirement. Beckham mentioned some such as Paul Scholes who miss the camaraderie and competition of playing, and make returns. Coaching at least allows for some sun on the training ground every morning. 

But apparently ownership appeals to Beckham more. It's not a completely novel notion: Michael Jordan was perhaps the most high-profile athlete to move from the court to the boardroom. 

"He spends a lot of time talking to me about the business side of it," Leiweke said. "David's really smart. He's a very good businessman and he's a tough businessman. I have a lot of respect for the kind of owner he's going to be. 

"He's a very shrewd guy. He understands talent. He's out, as we speak, helping Bruce with a couple players we're trying to bring here. 

"It took one day to get Robbie Keane because David Beckham picked up the phone and recruited him."

6. Money versus ball

When Beckham first joined the Galaxy, AEG greatly inflated his wages in a press release by including potential endorsement money. The company is taking the opposite tact this time around, lowly admitting that others could stump up more coin. According to reports, PSG offered $18.7 million for an 18-month contract. 

Though details weren't revealed, Beckham likely won't see that amount for his full two years in LA. 

"We had confidence he'd make a decision as a dad before he'd make a decision as a businessman," Leiweke said. 

Other factors ended up weighing more than the financials, and in the end Beckham decided to keep his family in Los Angeles. 

"On New Year's Eve we had a glass of wine and I thought, 'We're too happy to move.'"

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