Beckham: Despite Paris, his legacy won’t be about playing

Wherever he lays his hat...
Wherever he lays his hat…

So the haircut and the pout are heading for Paris. David Beckham’s swansong – surely there is not another club after this? – will be in Europe’s most glamorous capital city. What a fabulous PR stunt and what a great place to don your boots for the odd 30 minutes every couple of weeks. Beckham will love Paris and the French will undoubtedly scream “Nous t’aimons”.

For once, somebody is using Beckham as much as he is using Paris St.Germain. It will be a mutally beneficial relationship. Both PSG and Beckham are great examples of conspicuous consumerism. PSG have been throwing around the euro like it’s going out of fashion (mmm…it is actually) and Posh and Becks will be able to flaunt their wealth on the Boulevards in style.

But what is Beckham walking into? PSG crave credibility as they set-out to be a major European force. They are assembling a team of highly-paid all-stars – which, incidentally has not yet gelled properly – and their resources seem limitless. Beckham will not be the top card – Ibrahimovic has that status – but he will be a magnificent ambassador for PSG. For all Beckham’s obsession with hogging the limelight (even the announcement was carefully timed to ensure maximum impact), you have to give the man credit for keeping his nose cleaner than most over the past 15-odd years and also his incredibly astute business sense. He’s obviously advised, and paying well for that advice, but in the long run, Beckham will be remembered less for his football and mostly for the carefully sculptured public image.

When you think of Beckham today – and let’s be frank, he passed his peak a decade ago – it will be images of him arriving at an airport, sitting at a basketball match with A-listers, getting his hair-style, showing off his latest body art and staring at you from an advertising hoarding, homo-erotically bare-chested. You have to scroll back to tales of World Cup failures past to see his real playing legacy. And since 2003, when he became near-anonymous among the galacticos in Spain, his club career fell below the profile of his time at Manchester United. As Beckham’s career trajectory on the field passed the curve, his public persona took over.

There’s never any shortage of people wanting to use Beckham for his image. He was used – and some might say, abused – by the Olympics, kids take to him, the gay community see him as an icon, and fashion houses queue up for him. He is what George Best might have become if the supremely talented Irishman hadn’t spent too much time drinking and womanizing. He’s a post-modern George Best.

Beckham has also plugged into the zeitgeist in donating his wages from his Parisian soujorn to charity. With players (rightly) being criticized for their behavior and excessive wage demands, Beckham has been very shrewd and his act of generosity means he will board Eurostar with everyone on his side (cue the images of Becks being waved off at St.Pancras). But in my view, he soon needs to move into coaching or management if his legacy is to be preserved as a football man. That may be next, of course, but he may just decide that having conquered Europe, the Americas and the UK, the Beckham brand may look to Asia next.

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