In Piers Morgan’s column in a Sunday Mail supplement, he spoke of his decision to step down as a judge on America’s Got Talent. He cited his new role within CNN affording him less time but also his desire to quit at the top.
The show had experienced its most successful series to date and was the most watched programme across the pond and Morgan was leaving on a high with his reputation not only intact but enhanced.
Waking up this morning, the sports headlines were dominated by one David Beckham, who guided LA Galaxy to the MLS Cup. It is widely believed that Beckham has played his final match at the Home Depot Center, with the burgeoning billions of Paris Saint Germain awaiting his signature.
But is this the right move for a man who is over halfway into his 37th year on Earth? What does Beckham stand to gain by switching allegiance to the Parisian suburbs? Will Beckham quit at the top?
Is now not the right time for Beckham to flourish in his fame and fortune, enjoy the Hollywood highlife and revel in retirement?
Beckham is arguably the most famous Brit alive today. Yes there’s the Queen and the odd actor here or there but nobody transcends modern society worldwide quite like Goldenballs himself.
He is an icon. His fame far exceeds his footballing ability. He has never been the best player on the planet. He’s rarely been the best player in England. But what Beckham represents is all that modern football stands for – the opportunity to go from relative rags to extreme riches; the prospect of playing with and against some of the all-time greatest and commercially utilising one simple product to its maximum.
Yet what endears Beckham to housewives and steely pub-goers nationwide is his genuine character, his doting parenthood and his love of what he does. Beckham simply has nothing more to prove.
He received staunch criticism in 2006 when signing for LA Galaxy. Critics argued that his playing days were numbered and he went to the States to make a fast buck. Confounding expectations, Beckham, along with Landon Donavan, has transformed Galaxy from also-rans to national champions, excelling as a player and leader both on and off the pitch. In doing so, he became only the second Englishman along with Trevor Steven, to win national titles in three countries.
His reputation now is arguably higher than it has ever been. His unwavering desire to impress and simply play football has earned the Leytonstone born midfielder deep respect within the game. But at 36, surely it’s time for Becks to blow the final whistle on his glittering career?
Does there not become a point in sport where that desire isn’t matched by ability. Take a look at Paul Scholes. An English midfield legend who whilst he still wanted to carry on playing, realised his body simply couldn’t perform at the level it once did.
Beckham is not going to get faster, fitter or better in any aspect bar his tactical nouse. The Qatari owners will demand instant success and Beckham’s arrival and subsequent selection cannot surely be warranted on the merit of his performances alone.
Similarly, he has long spoken of his happiness in LA. His children are finally settled, his wife has finally found what she’s good at (finally realising it’s not singing) and his lifestyle is idyllic. When he joined Galaxy, he had two missions. Change the standing of the MLS in the USA and win the title with LA Galaxy. Sceptics argue that he has only achieved one of those goals. Over $125m better off from his American adventure, it is hard to comprehend that the lure of PSG is anything without a large cheque waved under his nose.
Perhaps clouding his judgement is the Olympics in 2012. Whilst he hasn’t officially called time on his England career, he will never wear the three lions again. So representing Team GB, or Team England plus 2 as I like to call it (Bale and Fletcher in case you were wondering), could be the perfect swansong for Beckham. It would attract attention to the sport that would otherwise be overlooked at the Olympics and selecting Beckham as one of the three over 25’s wouldn’t anger the Premier League elite’s managers. But why can’t Beckham, who is still capable of making headlines and attracting interesting in the USA, achieve selection after a selfless season in the States rather than a pointless, money grabbing venture in France?
There is a possible counter argument that retiring too early and retiring at the top doesn’t work either!
Many of the greats in modern sport have never known when to call it a day. Michael Schumacher, Michael Jordan and Lance Armstrong all left on a high but couldn’t resist another crack at the whip, only to be found wanting by the younger wippersnappers. Is Beckham worried that retiring would merely fuel his desire to play even more?
If the answer is yes, he must stick with LA Galaxy, where the pace of football is slower, where the glare of real football connoisseurs isn’t so bright and where he can still rake in the millions and achieve that second bulletpoint of his American Dream.
Whatever Beckham chooses to do, he has been a magnificent servant to world football and a humble, down-to-earth champion. But please Becks, don’t make your next decision on account of your bank balance…
Monday, 21st November 2011