David Beckham always says all the right things to all the right people, but if he is to fulfill all his promises and obligations, he may need to start cloning himself. With soccer-related commitments in at least the UK, the US, France and China (and possibly others in Qatar in elsewhere), plus countless sponsorship obligations around the world, Beckham’s retirement will be anything but relaxed.
It had been hoped that his one-year ambassadorial position for Chinese football would lead to a longer-term partnership, but it may well be that Xiao Bei’s Chinese activities get squeezed out by a growing number of international interests. Here is today’s Sports Talk column:
David Beckham has always prompted overreactions.
At the 1998 World Cup, an overreaction from Argentina’s Diego Simeone to a tap on the leg saw Beckham sent off; England lost the game and Beckham was subsequently hated by the majority of English soccer fans for at least a year.
Just last week, Beckham’s announcement that he is retiring saw the news widely described as “stunning” when in fact he is 38 – ancient in soccer terms – and only ever had a contract until the end of May.
Former England winger Chris Waddle then put the proverbial boot in, saying that Beckham wouldn’t make a list of the top 1,000 players to have featured in England’s top flight over the past 40 years.
Given that Beckham is England’s most capped outfield player, has won league titles in four different countries and was twice runner-up in the FIFA World Player of the Year voting, Waddle’s statement perhaps tops the long list of overreactions. But love him or loathe him, the question for Beckham now is “What’s next?”
Fans in China are hoping that much of his free time will now be spent promoting soccer in the Middle Kingdom, where he signed on to be an ambassador for the Chinese Super League earlier this year.
With China ranked as the world’s 86th best team, the potential to play a part in dragging Chinese soccer out of the doldrums is clear. His retirement also opens the door for Beckham to play in the league’s All-Star game in November.
Perhaps more attractively, though, there are plenty of opportunities to endorse products in the world’s most populous nation.
But Beckham is all things to all men: part athlete, part model, part brand, part family man, part everything. Which means, of course, that China is far from his only option.
He recently signed on to become an ambassador with Sky TV to help promote youth sports in the UK and he said at the weekend he wanted to remain involved in some capacity with soon-to-be-former club Paris Saint-Germain.
Reports are circulating that Beckham may also exercise his option to buy a new MLS franchise, with Miami being mentioned as a possible location. In addition, he has commitments to fulfill with Adidas, Burger King, Sainsbury’s, Samsung and many others.
It looks like Beckham may be even busier in his retirement than he was as a player – and China may be the odd man out as a result.
It’s worth remembering that Beckham’s deal with the CSL is for 2013 only, so despite all the fanfare surrounding the partnership (or whatever it is exactly), he is guaranteed to come again in June and in November – and that’s it. I imagine China may well see plenty of the Beckhams in 2014 and beyond – assuming that various companies are still happy to keep paying him – but, after this year, nothing is set in stone.