The speculation towards the end of last year that David Beckham would end his career playing in the Chinese Super League (CSL) just didn’t make any kind of sense – either for Beckham the player or Beckham the brand. He had offers from English Premier League clubs and from clubs in continental Europe who were still in this year’s UEFA Champions League. China was too far away from his family, who had already relocated from LA to London.
But Beckham’s proposed ambassadorial role promoting the CSL, which Xinhua reports is “almost certain” to happen, is – on the surface – far more bizarre, especially given that he is supposed to be starting this role imminently i.e. while still in Paris. You can just imagine the interviews:
French journalist: So David, great start to your PSG career on the weekend, but what I really want to ask you about is the Chinese Super League. Who’s the most promising young player in the league?
French journalist: Well can you tell us your favorite team?
But for Brand Beckham this actually makes a lot of sense. The Beckham cash cow could be milked long after he’s retired from playing, but the further removed he is from his playing days, the smaller the pay packet. To sign a deal now – even though he will have little time, if any, to fly to China in the next five months – maximizes the value for Team Becks.
Even though IMG have said Becks could actually play for one of the CSL teams later in the year, the man himself won’t know at this point whether he physically wants to keep playing. He was pretty clear when announcing he would leave LA Galaxy, saying he wanted “one last challenge” before the end of his playing career. That sounds to me like off-field activities will soon be the priority.
He’s already signed a deal with a Chinese toothpaste company, and many more would surely follow once he actually gets to the country.
The CSL, on the other hand, just end up looking desperate by throwing silly money at someone well past his best, ignoring the fact that they already lost out to the French league in the Beckham Sweepstakes. The CSL may have put its match-fixing troubles behind it, but getting someone to promote your league from afar for the next six months doesn’t do wonders for the league’s credibility (or what’s left of it).