The former England skipper spent five years at the Galaxy.
It is ten years to the day since David Beckham stunned the football world by announcing he would be joining LA Galaxy at the end of that ongoing season.
Beckham’s Real Madrid career appeared to be over after Fabio Capello left the England star out in the cold but the midfielder, after confirming he was going to move to the MLS, won back his place and finished the campaign with a La Liga winners’ medal in his pocket.
His decision to leave the Santiago Bernabeu, at the time, made sense. But, given his finale in the Spanish capital, a move to the United States seemed very premature for a 31-year-old, who also had a host of other options across Europe.
Before Beckham’s move – and indeed, even after it – a move to America was usually made by players later on in their careers, looking for one last payday or a way to ease themselves into retirement.
But Beckham was different. Not only did he choose the Galaxy over some top clubs in Europe, he also knew he was taking on a huge challenge – growing the popularity of football in the country. While the former Manchester United star acknowledged that he alone could not raise the profile of football over basketball, baseball, and American football, he proclaimed, “I wouldn’t be going there if I didn’t think I could make a difference.”
On that front, Beckham certainly succeeded. While the growing MLS still lags behind other sports in terms of popularity, Beckham’s arrival instantly raised the profile of the league, and his presence in America has had a lasting impact. He was and still is a global celebrity, and that meant that wherever he played, fans would come to watch, a marked difference from the attendance struggles the MLS faced before his arrival.
Beckham also made the MLS a more appealing prospect for fellow European players. Who knows if stars like Thierry Henry, Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo or David Villa would have moved there if Beckham had not blazed the trail for them?
The England cult hero was a success on the pitch, as well. Beckham reinvented himself from winger to deep-lying playmaker during his time in Los Angeles, which explains the modest goals return; he scored only 18 times in 102 MLS appearances. But what he lacked in goals he more than made up for with his playmaking ability, tallying 40 MLS assists during his time with the Galaxy.
More importantly, Beckham helped the Galaxy win two MLS Cup titles, drawing them level with DC United for the most in MLS history. The Galaxy now hold that record on their own after a win in 2014, with many players on that team having benefited from playing alongside Beckham earlier in their career.
Of course, just as it was throughout his career, Beckham was never far from controversy. Many criticised him for seemingly taking to the celebrity aspect of life in LA more than he took to the football, although Beckham always maintained that football was his primary focus.
His first few seasons in the MLS were tarnished by injury, which also led to frustration among Galaxy fans. But perhaps the biggest cause for anger was his decision to go on multiple loan moves back to Europe. When he went to AC Milan in 2009, he didn’t return for the start of the MLS season, choosing to stay with Milan in order to prolong his career with England.
Other players, including Henry and Beckham’s own teammate, Robbie Keane, returned to the Premier League for loan spells, but they always returned for the start of MLS season. It didn’t help that the very next year, Beckham suffered an injury soon after returning from a second stint with Milan. His loan spells even drew criticism from teammate and American soccer legend Landon Donovan, although Donovan later apologised for his remarks.
Ultimately, however, success trumps everything, and Beckham left on a high with the MLS Cup triumph in his final season, in 2012. He left to a thunderous ovation in the final when he was substituted late in the game. By then, he had earned the goodwill of the fans, and done everything else he’d set out to do in America.
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This year’s FIFPro World XI was dominated by Barcelona and Real Madrid players, the two La Liga giants contributing a combined nine players in the team.
Announced at a gala event in Zurich on Monday evening, only former Barcelona man Dani Alves – now at Juventus – and Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer were from teams outside of Spain’s two biggest clubs.
Barcelona players in the XI included; Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
Meanwhile, current Champions League holders Real Madrid saw five of their players inducted into the XI with Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Cristiano Ronaldo featuring.
Organised by FIFPro, the body that represents players’ associations from 69 countries, the team is decided by professional footballers, with 26,516 voting this year.
No Premier League-based players were selected despite English and Welsh clubs providing the most votes, a record 1,884.
Manchester United’s Paul Pogba, however, missed out on one of the three midfield berths by an agonising two votes, the smallest margin in the award’s 12-year history – a count FIFPro verified with a Dutch-based public notary.