warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Craft It Like Beckham: The Art Of Going Out On Top

Omar Shamout |
November 25, 2012 | 9:48 p.m. PST

Senior Sports Reporter

On Dec. 1, the Galaxy could win their second straight title in Beckham's send-off game.  (RegularDaddy/Wikimedia Commons)
On Dec. 1, the Galaxy could win their second straight title in Beckham's send-off game. (RegularDaddy/Wikimedia Commons)
If David Beckham isn’t a Beatles fan, he should be.

The soccer icon is used getting by with a little help from his friends. 

An undoubtedly great player in his prime, Beckham’s legendary corner kicks and crossing ability were second to none.

He’s still as dangerous as anyone on the planet from free kicks around the penalty area.

Beckham’s record proves that he’s not only a skilled player, but a winner too.

Apart from his brief loan spells with England’s Preston North End in the late 1990s and more recently at AC Milan, Beckham has left every club he’s played for following a championship season.

And six years after shocking the soccer world by leaving super club Real Madrid to become the savior of floundering Major League Soccer, David Beckham’s American gambit has worked. 

The LA Galaxy are about to play in their third straight MLS Cup and are poised to defend last year’s title at the Home Depot Center on Dec. 1. 

Even if they lose, LA’s journey from fourth seed to Western Conference champions is quite a tale itself.

What better way could there be for Beckham to call it quits? His experience tells him there isn’t one.

Beckham left Manchester United after the 2002-03 Premier League season in which the Red Devils won their eighth title in 11 seasons. 

In 2007, he signed with Los Angeles after Real Madrid finally wrested the Spanish league crown from Barcelona’s clutches.

As Beckham told LAGalaxy.com last week, the 37-year-old midfielder is keenly aware of the power of narrative.

“To go out with a real successful story,” Beckham said. “That was one of the reasons why I wanted to make this [decision].

But he’s had help along the way in crafting his winning legacy.

There’s little doubt the Galaxy would be where they are without Keane’s 20 league goals. LA’s playoff run is due mainly to the scoring of its forward trio: Keane, Landon Donovan and Mike Magee. And for the first time this campaign, the Galaxy back line is starting to play as consistently as it did last year.

Beckham’s last goal came back on Sept. 1 against Vancouver. 

As a player, Beckham is replaceable, and he has been for some time.

Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena has plenty of options in the midfield ready to step up.

When Beckham was injured toward the end of the regular season, Marcelo Sarvas was a more-than-adequate substitute.

This trend is nothing new in Beckham’s career. In his final season with Madrid, Beckham made only seven league starts. 

Club president Florentino Perez’s strategy of signing international mega stars was great for shirt sales, but less than stellar in terms of trophies.

Following the retirement of Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo the previous summer, Real Madrid initiated a roster overhaul. A total of eight new players joined the club, including 30-year-old Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy. 

Beckham and van Nistelrooy knew each other well, of course, having played two seasons together at Manchester United before the Englishman’s departure.

Three years later, like Beckham before him, Van Nistelrooy clashed with manager Sir Alex Ferguson and wound up in Spain.

In their final season as teammates in Manchester, van Nistelrooy’s 25 league goals propelled United to the Premier League title as Beckham’s value on the pitch waned.

The Dutchman scored the exact same number of goals for Madrid during his first year with the club, allowing Beckham to exit a champion once again.

Sensing his time in the Spanish sun was up, Beckham opted for the warm weather of Los Angeles. 

Until Keane’s arrival in 2011, however, Beckham’s Hollywood script was turning out much like the Spanish version.

His first three seasons in MLS were filled with frustration as the Galaxy failed to live up to their championship credentials. When the team lost MLS Cup 2010 to Real Salt Lake, many wondered whether Beckham’s Galaxy would ever reach their true potential.

His commitment to the Galaxy also came under scrutiny. 

Heavily criticized for twice leaving the club on loan to AC Milan, it appeared Beckham cared more about breaking Sir Bobby Moore’s record of 108 appearances for England than winning titles with the Galaxy.

He admitted before the move that his motivation for going to Italy was to make the England World Cup roster. 

“I need to give myself the best chance possible to make the World Cup squad and playing for Milan on loan will help me to do that,” Beckham told the Daily Mail in 2009.

That decision meant the aging Beckham would have almost no offseason before returning to LA the following spring.

Matters became even worse when Beckham tore his Achilles tendon in March, forcing him to miss not only that summer’s World Cup, but most of LA’s season too.

After his international retirement, things got better for Beckham and the Galaxy. The team went undefeated at home in 2011, winning the Supporters Shield and the MLS Cup for the first time in six years.

Beckham finished the season with two goals and 14 assists in league play, but Galaxy brass felt something was missing.

They were right.

Galaxy president Tim Leiweke signed Keane from Tottenham Hotspur in August, making him the club’s third “designated player’ after Donovan and Beckham.

The move was a sign of intent.

It worked.

Keane came up with a vital assist on Donovan’s goal in the MLS Cup, and the striker’s skill and experience were a crucial component of the Galaxy’s successful postseason run. This year is more of the same.

As it has twice before, Beckham’s time in his club’s spotlight is fading.

The superstar is smartly exiting stage left, ready to write another chapter in his career.

Beckham’s always crossed a ball better than almost anyone. 

He might be an even better storyteller.

Reach Senior Sports Reporter Omar Shamout via email or follow him on Twitter.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.