Well, he might be. OK, so he probably won’t be. In fact, he almost certainly will choose to play elsewhere. But that doesn’t make for a good headline, especially where the UK tabloids are concerned.
The problem with the tabloids is that they have absolutely no obligation to tell the truth when it comes to this sort of thing. Throw in the odd “insiders say” or “a source close to the couple” and you can make up whatever you want and stick it on the back page. Which is exactly what the tabloids do.
The latest “news” from the UK is that Shanghai Shenhua will pay Beckham stupid money to strut his stuff on the pitch in his final swansong before retirement. Beckham has said he would play for one more team after leaving LA Galaxy, and since nothing has yet been announced following reported discussions with Monaco, PSG, a host of clubs in London, Australia, Russia, Brazil and presumably in outer space too, the Sunday People decided it was time for a rehash of the Beckham-to-China story. Pages have to be filled, you know.
Let’s pretend for a minute that Beckham might actually come to China to do for Chinese soccer what he did for MLS in America. By far the most likely destination would be Shanghai Shenhua – hence the rumours. Stranger things have happened (think Gascoigne, Paul), but I can’t see Victoria doing her shopping in a Tier 2 (or below) city: Beijing doesn’t have the money and Guangzhou, sensibly, seems more focused on building a squad of solid, young, Chinese players than on splashing the cash on an aged superstar. Which leaves Shanghai, and newly-promoted Shanghai SIPG doesn’t have the money either.
But if Anelka and Drogba – both allegedly on their way out of Shenhua, or already out the door – didn’t get paid in full last season after various off-field disputes and boardroom squabbles, what makes Team Beckham think their meal ticket will fare any differently? He can sign a contract for $400,000 a week and add merchandise and endorsement deals worth another $30 million, but it would take an awful lot of upfront payment to persuade the Brand that he should swap his sarong for a qipao.
Beckham will still come to China for various other commitments, though not nearly as many as he could have had if he were to be based here full-time. A Chinese toothpaste company has already paid him future appearance money, but is holding out to see whether their planned promotional event will actually go ahead – depending on where Beckham ends up.
But, come to think of it, if a Brit has managed to convince a company his teeth are good enough to sell products (see Powers, Austin), maybe he can convince a Chinese Super League team to come good on any promised earnings.