David Beckham has joined Paris St. Germain. The 37-year-old, who will donate his salary to charity, signed a five-month contract for the Qatari-owned French club in the latest stop of a long and storied career.
PSG unveiled Beckham Thursday at a press conference in the French capital. Rumors about the English superstar's next destination began swirling the moment he announced he was leaving the Los Angeles Galaxy in late November, a week before the MLS Cup Final.
Until Thursday's announcement, Beckham was linked to clubs in Australia, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and even New York. But on the final day of the January transfer window, the former England captain picked Paris, signing a five-month contract and electing to donate his wages to charity.
"I chose Paris because what they're trying to do," said Beckham, at his introductory press conference, sitting next to club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and Director of Football Leonardo.
Thinking beyond football
Five months may not exactly be a long stay – Beckham's family are going to remain living in London – but he says the move is about more than just football.
Beckham played 115 times for England, and captained the team at two World Cups
"I might've only signed a contract to the end of the season but I consider myself to be part of this club for the future," Beckham said.
He is planning to donate his salary to a children's charity in Paris, a decision he called "quite unique," adding it was something he and the club were "very proud and excited to be able to do."
"[Paris] is an exciting city, it always has been and it always will be, but now there's a club that's going to have a lot of success in the next 10, 15, 20 years," he said. "To be part of something that is growing is very exciting to me."
And growing PSG are. Since being taken over by the Qatari Investment Authority in 2011, the club have spent big to bring in marquee names, including Thiago Silva, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lucas Moura, Javier Pastore, and most notably, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Parisian club currently sit atop the Ligue 1 table, and are set to take on Valencia in the Champions League Round of 16 on February 12 after winning their group.
Relative success in America
Beckham, who won numerous trophies with Real Madrid and Manchester United, spent five years with the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer prior to joining PSG. By most accounts, his time in the US was a success, but not quite what it could have been.
He came to LA from Madrid in the summer of 2007, by far the most high-profile signing in the young league's short history. Not since Pele joined the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League in the 1970s had such a big-name footballer come to America.
His beginning in California was rocky at best. During his first season and a half he filled stadiums and generated great media buzz, but on the field, the Galaxy were woeful.
Subsequent loan spells with AC Milan in 2009 and 2010 – which he said were to keep him in the England team ahead of the World Cup – gave fans the impression that Beckham was not as committed to growing the game in the US as he'd promised, and he was accused of being a "part-time player."
But back-to-back MSL Cup Championships in 2011 and 2012 meant Beckham left LA on a relative high. Like Pele, he hadn't turned soccer into a major American sport, but he had raised its profile in the country. More than that, his playmaking from midfield was a crucial part to of the Galaxy's consecutive league titles.
He also paved the way for other big names in world football to make the move stateside. Following in Beckham's footsteps, to mixed results, were players including France's Thierry Henry, Ireland's Robbie Keane, and Germany's Frank Rost and Torsten Frings.
But many fans of the sport in the US wonder what might have happened if Beckham had committed himself to the Galaxy from the start, if his team could have been a success on the field when "Beckham mania" was at its peak.
Fitting into PSG
In Paris Beckham will be once again teamed up with Carlo Ancelotti, his manager while at AC Milan. But his age raises questions marks about just how much can contribute on the field.
Beckham helped Manchester United to a dramatic win over Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League Final
At LA Beckham was a lock for the starting 11 whenever he was fit, but at PSG, a Champions League team boasting a wealth of talent in midfield, competition will be stiff.
"I don't expect to come into this team and play every single game," said Beckham. "I don't expect to start. I have to work for that."
With Real Madrid, Manchester United and England, Beckham was famous for his free kicks and pin-point crosses from the right flank. But during his time in MLS, he evolved from winger to playmaking central midfielder, using his accurate right foot to start the attack from deep.
At 37 Beckham is obviously not the same player he was a decade ago, but the passing accuracy and vision that helped to make him the most famous footballer, and possibly athlete, on the planet have not diminished. And Beckham was quick to say Thursday that he still has something to offer.
"I have a lot of experience in the game," he said. "I can still play like I could when I was 21 years old. I've not lost any of my pace because, to be honest, I never had any pace."
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