David Beckham may still love the adrenaline rush and goosebumps being on a football pitch generates, but having hid behind a dubious facade for six years he yesterday confirmed at his Paris St-Germain press conference he was celebrity first and footballer a distant second.
He said "it's always been about football" but that is simply not true. A brand so universal he was namedropped in 2009's Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, David went to Hollywood at the age his former teammate Paul Scholes was helping Manchester United win their first Premier League title in four years. It used to be about the football.
How prévisible the announcement he was joining PSG would be made on deadline day. Beckham's limelight lust is unabashed and even the most hardened sceptics could not contest this was purely a brand signing.
His decision to train with Arsenal on Monday was merely exercise in publicity. Beckham will have known his next club would be PSG but opted for a photoshoot of the training variety. Many Arsenal fans lapped it up, some who will have booed him on his first game back on English soil after his 1998 World Cup red card in the Charity Shield. It is a reflection of his worldwide popularity.
When he held court it was not so much repartee as repeat. Commendably he didn't cave in to uttering modern football's signature nonsense word "project" for 10 minutes, only for it to unashamedly roll off the tongue as if it was delivered by a PR spokesman.
At 37 years of age and not match fit for a "few weeks", Beckham has little to offer a PSG side spearheaded by Zlatan Ibrahimović and boasting an array of attackers from the quicksilver Ezequiel Lavezzi to the raw Lucas Moura and the temperamental Javier Pastore. Like the final three years of his England career, it will be difficult to justify Beckham's inclusion on the bench, let alone the first XI. The five months he has signed for corroborated the PR stunt and the admission he would not be match-fit until late February makes the exercise, on a footballing basis, futile.
Beckham holds court in Paris
But then there was the clincher; he would be donating his £3m salary to a local children's charity. Beckham's celebrity may irk football purists but he has always been one of the most likeable and courteous in his profession, and now he can add philanthropic.
The gesture warrants suspicion, however. France Football this week published an investigation into the murky dealings behind Qatar's successful bid for the 2022 World Cup, which was swiftly followed by a report into the human rights of migrant labourers in the country emerging as the most popular story on the Guardian. Beckham donned an FA blazer just over two years ago when he represented England's doomed 2018 bid in Zurich but is now getting into bed with the Qataris. How very Parisien.
There is also financial fair play to consider. PSG will make God-knows-how-much through shirt sales bearing the name "Beckham 32" around the world while not paying the most recognisable sportsman on the planet. Real Madrid enjoyed a 62% spike after he signed for £25m in 2003.
For such an image-conscious man, it was unnerving to hear Beckham suggest he might work for the Qataris in the future but it was further evidence of how the Cockney kid who was once purely interested in emulating his hero Bryan Robson had become lost. He briefly reappeared when Beckham confessed he could never play for another Premier League club having spent 14 years of his life with United, but it was only fleeting.
One wag yesterday tweeted: "Left Manchester after marrying a fashion obsessed popstar.... Then tells us it was HIS idea to move to Madrid, Milan, LA and Paris!" Beckham admitted it was a "joint decision" between him and Mrs Beckham to play across the Channel, as if he needed to. From modelling D&G to promoting D&V.
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