Just as you had to admire David Beckham’s response to Sir Alex Ferguson’s book (however ridiculous the “showcase hairstyle” might be), you can’t help feeling that his latest venture, acquiring a football franchise, is another example of the former England captain’s hunger for attention.
It’s hard to take Major League Soccer too seriously, although it has made solid strides in the right direction, and it’s equally difficult to give credibility to Beckham as a football club owner, despite the fact that he’s incredibly “excited” about the possibility.
When Beckham went to the States, he had some sort of agreement whereby he could set-up a Major League Franchise at a significant discount. According to media reports, this will mean Beckham will have to pay a fee of around £ 16m, but that’s just for starters. Other investors will be needed to get the Miami team off the ground. The city does not have a good track record when it comes to football teams. The last incarnation was Miami Fusion, but they were poorly supported and folded in 2001.
But if anyone can make it work in the land of sunshine it is “Brand Beckham”. Throughout his career, he has handled the media and the public perfectly, unlike any other footballer. It’s no wonder Sir Alex found his antics irritating, but now he’s no longer a footballer – some might say that his career ended when he left Real Madrid – his “people” have done a brilliant job of keeping him in the spotlight. It’s no coincidence that he unveiled his Miami interest just days after Sir Alex revealed the contents of his book.
Clever marketing it might be, but there’s one thing worth considering here. Beckham is adored by football fans in the emerging nations. When he goes to Asia, they love him, in much the same way they go ga-ga over computer games, cartoons and cuddly toys. I would wager that if he went to Africa, they would also love him. And in the US, the PR machine will also make sure that Miami rolls out the red carpet for this mythical figure that is every bit as much about underpants, scent, sun-glasses and sharp suits as it is about football. Beckham is an aspirational figure for these people, but how many of the fawning fans have really seen him when he was footballer first, clothes-horse second?
Beckham’s cachet in the old footballing world has long gone. He would not command the same level of adulation in Europe today. That’s why he’s constantly searching for new territories to conquer. And doubtless he will…