Milan’s Beckham Offer a Blessing for MLS


David Beckham’s time in Major League Soccer has been a failure. Plain and simple the circus that has surrounded the world’s most famous athlete has done little to enhance the sport in the United States. One cannot fully understand Beckham’s psychology or motivation without realizing that even the great footballers need a certain level of support around them. In the case of Beckham, he’s always been a supplementary piece to winning programs, not the key figure.

Almost two years ago when Major League Soccer Talk opened for business I predicted on an early show that Beckham would find life rough in MLS. The Galaxy in early 2007 were a side with quite possibly less talent than any other MLS team. Those truly objective about the club realized that Beckham would for the first time as a professional enter most matches with the inferior team. Having played previously with super-clubs Manchester United and Real Madrid, Beckham never knew what life as an underdog was.

At the time I received some nasty emails telling me I was crazy to think that Los Angeles would even with Beckham be a prohibitive underdog to the likes of DC United, New England and Houston. But in hindsight I wasn’t critical enough. To me the Beckham deal was always about marketing and not about the product on the field. The Los Angeles Galaxy had become after Doug Hamilton’s untimely passing the greatest demonstration of Hubris in global football. That’s quite an honor when you consider the big clubs in Europe and Argentina are full of nothing but Hubris.

MLS had developed nicely between 2002 and 2006. Early in the history of the league, over spending on players was necessary to establish a market and help develop formerly semi professional American footballers. MLS between 1996 and 2000 featured a surprisingly high standard of play and a great number of top foreign players like Carlos Valderamma, Roberto Donadoni and Marco Ethceverry. The league however was struggling financially.

Enter Don Garber and a new business plan. MLS contracted after the 2001 season and stopped spending money on high priced foreign talent. By 2006, attendance was up, the standard of play had rebounded to the levels found pre 2000 and this had been done with strong budgetary restraints and largely American or CONCACAF based players.

But in 2007, the Hubris of the LA Galaxy detoured MLS’ growth onto a wild roller coaster ride which could have a crash landing.  The Galaxy’s signing of David Beckham engaged the European Football press, always dubious of anything American. What followed was a litany of speculation as to who would be signed next in Major League Soccer, as well as a irrational amount of scrutiny on MLS’ quality of play and playoff system.

While the league seemed to relish its new found prominence, the product itself has suffered. The quality of play has not improved the last two seasons, TV viewership has dropped substantially from where they were in the late 90s, and David Beckham himself has been shown up by the likes of Terry Cooke, John Thorrington, Jovan Kirovski and Darren Huckerby, all either former low profile Man United team-mates or Englishmen.

MLS should accept whatever offer Milan is willing to give for Beckham. His presence has been a distraction to the Galaxy and MLS as a whole. His performances have not merited any of the accolades he’s received, and his current form with Milan indicates that he took MLS so lightly that he couldn’t be bothered to give a full effort.

The Beckham Rule itself is unnecessary. The league found a way previously to sign big name Mexican players and would have found a way to sign Blanco to Chicago even without the rule. The non-Blanco DP signings have all been dubious in one way or another.  To think a player the quality of Guille Barros Schelotto, decorated with numerous awards in Argentina, came to Columbus, WITHOUT using a DP slot should be evidence enough. The Beckham rule itself should be sunset, and Beckham himself should be jettisoned.

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About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC.
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20 Responses to Milan’s Beckham Offer a Blessing for MLS

  1. Outsider says:

    LOL..your comment on Beckham's performance has been blinded by your hatred towards the man himself and towards the Galaxy's failure as a whole. For your info..I have watched every single of his Galaxy's game and he has given 100% efforts in every single game that he was involved..even when he was seen to be so frustrated after they have LOST 10 GAMES IN A ROW!! Now tell me..would Blanco be that good or will you be seeing Blanco or Schletto as that good if their teams have been at the BOTTOM OF THE LEAGUE?! The problem is not David Beckham, but MLS and AEG as a whole. And LA Galaxy themselves. LA Galaxy have been at the bottom of the league not because of the offence (which consist of Beckham), but because their defence are one of the most horrible defences I've ever seen in football! The main point is that, had Beckham been in Chicago or Columbus team in the first place..or any other team which managed to have better players in their wouldn't say that Beckham hasn't put 100% efforts in his games! I have watched every single of his play in Milan now, and guess what…his play is exactly the same as he was in LA, he just has better team there! And for your info…Beckham has been a success in his mission to put MLS in the World Football's Map..if you haven't notice yet, people ALL OVER THE WORLD are talking and discussing about MLS now, not to mention the amount of attention that MLS receives in U.S today. Almost everyone is talking about MLS, whether in a positive or negative ways, but it shouldn't matter right? As long as people now what soccer/football is, that is more than good for now. And the standard of play has been raised since he arrived; there are a lot of foreign players came to MLS now, and more new teams and stadiums emerged and in building. MLS are revising again their youth and revision system, there are clamour to raise the salary caps, which eventually will help keep players to stay in the league. And..surprisingly, Landon Donovan has gone back to Europe! I bet even he never thought that he would get back to the main scene 2 years ago! And let me remind you again, Beckham is not the reason of the Galaxy's failure, it's their horrible defence and midfielders – which brings us back to Galaxy's management, owners, and MLS as a whole! Now that Bruce Arena has been replacing players and it seems to me that he is rebuilding the team back..if Beckham stays..I want to see what would you say then when Galaxy reaches the play-off in 2009.

  2. Julio Lopes says:

    It is obvious that Mr. Krishnaiyer is completely clueless about MLS as a whole and the history of the sport in this country. Perhaps he should stop looking at the statistics and pay a little bit more attetion to what is acctually going on, on and off the field. Why is he trying so hard to back up his ridiculous prediction? Does he really think that he needs to pat himself on the back by coming to a conclusion that the level of play in MLS is lower than the level of play in the Premier League? What an idiot!!

    The truth is that MLS padded the numbers for years. Did he go to any games during the 90's or even in the early 2000's? Did he see the level of play? Did he see how many people were at the games and then how many people MLS claimed were at the game? Wait???? The quality has gone down in the last two years?….hhahahah Where did he get this information? The league is awesome if you ask me. The teams are practically even so every game is a challenge for any team. No football league in the world has this. Again…Did he watch any of these games? Again…What an idiot!

    What you're seeing now with Garber is real growth and real results. What Beckham has done to the sport and the league is not measurable but I can assure you that it has done more good than harm. Talk to anyone that goes to the games. Beckham playing this way at AC just shows that he is still at the top of his game. I believe that this only helps the league. If he comes back…great! Now everyone knows that he can still play well anywhere. If he does not come back, then he chose to play in the 2nd or 3rd best league in the world and he also chose to play for one of the top 5 best teams in the world. Any team in the world, including ManU would not be embarased by losing a player to AC. Give me a break!

    I predict that Mr. Krishnaiyer will always be an idiot. There, a prediction that is completely obvious just like yours Mr. Krishnaiyer.


  3. JDO says:

    “At the time I received some nasty emails telling me I was crazy to think that Los Angeles would even with Beckham be a prohibitive underdog to the likes of DC United, New England and Houston.”

    You can declare the Earth round, and you'll get nasty e-mails calling you an idiot. EVERYONE knew the Galaxy sucked without Beckham and would such with him.

    “To me the Beckham deal was always about marketing and not about the product on the field.”

    Really?!?!? Wow! I never thought of that!

  4. Marty says:

    As one those guys who sent you an email, you were right and wrong.

    You were right that the Galaxy would not make the playoffs, but were wrong that Beckham would have less assists than Roberto Donadoni did in his best MLS season. do you recall saying that to me?

    You were right about the Galaxy though, not really. You said they were the worst team in the league. They finished ahead of both Toronto and Salt Lake that year.

  5. Kartik is a Galaxy hater says:

    I cannot believe how you keep printing the same thing over and over again. You cite stats from the last two years but let this bethe evidence that you wrote the same exact thing two years ago! May of 2007 to be exact:

    This weekend's soccer headlines were dominated by recall of David Beckham to the England National Team. Yes the same David Beckham that was discarded by Steve McLaren and ridiculed by the British press for signing with Major League Soccer. Beckham's recall didn't seem to sit well with the LA Galaxy's flamboyant (and slightly over his head) General Manager Alexi Lalas. Lalas stated that Beckham may not be released for friendlies and seemed genuinely troubled that the showpiece of the club could be missing for several matches. While the British media made this statement by Lalas to be about finances, the more important consideration for Lalas and the Galaxy is the current state of the club. If Beckham misses significant time towards the season's end not only will the Galaxy lose out on gate receipts they are likely to miss out on the MLS playoffs. (I should point out that Alexi Lalas was the genius that fired Bob Bradley as coach of Red Bull New York less than two years ago; Bradley now coaches the US National Team after winning MLS coach of the year last season with Chivas USA. Last year Lalas fired Steve Sampson the year`after Sampson led the Galaxy to wins in both the domestic league and cup competitions, only the second “double” in MLS history.)
    A strong case can be made that the Galaxy are currently the least talented squad in MLS. While other clubs in the league take advantage of the depth of American talent to build a solid and deep squad, the Galaxy continue to bumble and stumble in the personnel department. Besides the schizophrenic Landon Donovan, the Galaxy lack any sort of classic finisher that has the skill to score off of Beckham's classic crosses. Herculez Gomez could have been a talented compliment to Beckham in the LA attack but the Galaxy shipped him off to Colorado this past offseason. (And Gomez thanked them by scoring the winning goal this past week) The Galaxy also released Trinidad and Tobago's starting World Cup forward Cornell Glen this past offseason, and let accomplished midfield workhorse Paulo Nagumura go to Toronto in the expansion draft. Currently, the Galaxy back line is a mess especially with the serious injury to US international defender Chris Albright. Recently the Galaxy's opposition has had no trouble creating many late, potential game winning goals thanks to LA's porous back line and inability to maintain possession in midfield. After playing with top worldwide clubs Real Madrid and Manchester United, the prospect of having to claw and fight for every point in the domestic league (and the prospect of zero international competition because the Galaxy will not qualify for next year's Champions Cup or Copa Sudamerica) should frighten Beckham away from the Galaxy.
    Chances are Beckham will not dominate MLS the way some in Europe are predicting and that the burden of carrying an otherwise poor club may force needless strain on him. This strain could complicate his ability to lead England towards Euro 2008 qualification. Beckham's LA tenure may also prove to the world of football that MLS is stronger more competetive league than many think, but may hurt the league's staying power in the US sports landscape since the Galaxy are unlikely to contend for the title. David Beckham may end 2007 wishing he had signed with Red Bull New York, Houston Dynamo, DC United or any of the other MLS clubs that have a compliment of players that could bring out the best David Beckham has to offer.

    So basically anything LA Galaxy or Beckham you will trash. Let this be the full evidence as to your agenda as muckracking anti Galaxy propagandist.

  6. Kartik is a Galaxy hater PT II says:

    From August 2007, Kartik Krishnaiyer continues his tirade, praising everyone else in MLS and trashing the Galaxy:

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    ? Episode 12 Delayed Until Friday Podcast Episode 12 Now Availible ?
    OPINION: Beckham’s LA Experience Turning Sour
    August 13th, 2007 By Kartik Krishnaiyer –> Comments

    My excitement about David Beckham signing to play in MLS in January quickly subsided when I realized what club he was going to be playing with. Sadly the fears I had about the LA Galaxy which led me to pen this blog in May have been confirmed. Alexi Lalas’ terrible record of club management which saw him destroy a championship team in San Jose, fire the future national team manager in New York and fire the former national team and MLS cup winning coach in Los Angeles have continued. Lalas’ pre Beckham arrival moves of trading goal scoring threat Nate Jaqua to Houston for Kelly Gray and Robbie Findley (who has played very well for Real Salt Lake) along with Nathan Sturgis (who had a big summer with the USU-20 team) for Chris Klein, the signing of an obviously washed up Carlos Pavon and releasing of Santino Quaranta have further undermined the squad which had already been gutted by Lalas’ meddling. Since Lalas took over as General Manager the Galaxy have traded or released Pablo Nagumura, Herculez Gomez, Ugo Imehlu, Nate Jaqua, Joseph Ngwenya, Robbie Findley, Nathan Sturgis, Santino Quaranta, and T&T World Cup veteran Cornell Glen. Each and every one of the players named with the possible exception of Imehlu would be an upgrade over the player currently playing the same position with the Galaxy. Alexi Lalas maybe a gifted at public relations for the sport, but his obvious inability to appreciate and hold talent have been painfully obvious wherever he has worked.

    The fact that Beckham has played only twenty minutes of league action in three matches is just as well. I can think of nothing more humiliating for one of the great footballers and football ambassadors of our time than to be thrown to the wolves with such a clearly outclassed bunch of team mates. Landon Donovan notwithstanding, it is tough to find any quality in the Galaxy field players comparable to the teams they will be competing with to make the MLS playoffs.

    Too bad you keep archives on this site for us to look things up. Sure you can brag about calling Becks failure. It's because YOU HATE THE GALAXY WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT. I understand why you have a following. The fans of the other MLS sides who were envious of the Galaxy loved listening to your dumb arse show and all your sidekicks trash the Galaxy. Then you went to 2Gs and were paired with a Galaxy fan and strangely didn't last there? Is that a coincidence.

    People shouldn't comment on this post. If Blanco had signed with the Galaxy and Beckham with the Fire we'd have countless blogs for two years talking about how great Beckham was for the Fire and MLS and what a disgrace Blanco and the Galaxy were.

    Oh btw, Quaranta was released because he was a DRUG ADDICT. Maybe you missed that in the news.

  7. Kartik is a Galaxy hater says:

    Dude you don't get it.

    He's actually far from an idiot. He's well endowed in the history of the game and that makes him dangerous.

    Listen to his show. Read the archives here. One consistent theme for two years: Any stat or meaningless random thought is grabbed a hold of to further his anti-Galaxy agenda.

    The underlying theme of this piece is that the MLS was riding high until the Galaxy signed Beckham and now the league sucks. The truth is the opposite. The league sucked in 2006 with unattractive defensive minded football and now two years later is free flowing and wide open because the Galaxy took a chance, opened their wallets and blew up MLS.

    Actually you are an idiot Julio Lopes if you think MLS when Mathis, Cienfuegos, Cobi and co. played for the Galaxy is somehow much much worse than now. The most exciting team in MLS History was the 98 Galaxy! The best team in MLS history was the 98 Galaxy! The best team in North America, was the 2000 Galaxy!

    CONCACAF Champions in 2000!

  8. Kartik once again is on top of the truth. All these Beckham groupies have drank the Kool Aid. Kartik, you are right, and they are wrong. Beckham from Day 1 has been an overhyped Americanized, pre-packaged media sensation with no relation to his actual talent as a footballer. Nah Nah, Nah Nah Nah Nah, Hey Hey Hey Goodbeye. P.S. If want to see a real foreigner with the ability to bring life and attention to MLS, here he is: Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Check out this take:….

  9. TC Pott says:

    Great piece. MLS needs to move on!

  10. ric says:

    “The non-Blanco DP signings have all been dubious in one way or another.”

    Kartik, obviously you meant to write “the non-Blanco, non-Angel DP signings”….

  11. C Webb says:

    One can only think what Denholm thinks of this.

    Look, anyone who has a vested interest in seeing MLS excel and grow welcomed the Beckham move with open arms. Financially and from a PR perspective it was a shot in the arm to an already good, not great, league. I disagree with the notion that the quality of play has decreased since his arrival. It's gotten better from year to year and the last two seasons didn't change anything.

    Anybody who knows anything about soccer knew that David Beckham the soccer player wasn't going to light this league up because at the end of the day, Becks is a complimentary player who has a world class right peg. Having Alan Gordon on the end of his crosses as opposed to Pato, Kaka and Ronaldinho is apples and oranges.

    With that being said, Donovan and Buddle had career years due in large part to the quality that is Beckham. The fact that only a few people can realize that is fault of average sports fans who were expecting Becks to score 15 goals. This of course is not unlike the unrealistic expectations heaped upon a 14 year old Freddy Adu with their ridiculous comparisons to Pele.

    At the end of the day, MLS will either make some decent money on a transfer fee to AC Milan (remember, he came to MLS on a free transfer) or they will shoot themselves in the foot by remaining adamant that he return to the Galaxy for the 09' season and then he will opt out of his contract and go to Milan on a free at the end of the 09' season.

    With that knowledge and Beckham's relatively quick success at Milan, sell him and sell him now. Make money on the deal or MLS will have some serious egg on their face by January of 10'

    Having said all that, while Becks wasn't the shot in the arm on the soccer side of things (in terms of improving the level of play, bringing other stars to MLS) he was a shot in the arm in terms of press and butts in the seats. The 66k in New York and the 45k and 36k in DC the last two years is proof of that, as well as the sellouts in all the smaller MLS stadiums (Crew Stadium, Pizza Hut Park, Dicks Sporting Goods and Toyota Park – even though MLS screwed up big time by scheduling this match on a WC qualifiying day) this past season when normally they would have probably been 25-50% fewer people in the seats.

    MLS will miss the Beckham effect, no matter how much it has dwindled in two years

  12. Marc says:

    Galaxy hating should be a hate crime.

  13. bob says:

    Has the writer of this article ever looked into MLS beforehand. Move the Dp rule. Great Idea. NOT. you think cuz the MLS has a GBS there great. He's 34 and at the end of his career yet he runs circles around the entire mls players. if the MLS wants to succeed the Salary cap needs to be raised drastically, and the DP rule, should more than 1 player a team. then people might come out and actually wathech em

  14. Soccer guru says:

    If Becks had been serious about MLS he would have taken the time to know something about his team and the names of his team mates besides Donovan when he came over here.

    Angel, Blanco, etc did this. Becks did not!

  15. Enrique says:

    Hey Kartik, I like the controversy on the subject. I think Beckham was great for the league and his on field failure has to do with management and not his skill. When we look at the tv ratings from now and 10 years ago and see less ratings we are not really exploring the reasons why.

    I think when it comes to MLS, it's the glass half empty or half full. I'm one of those who is hopeful of the league, not because I drank the Kool-Aid, but because if you take a look at the history of the NFL,NBA and NHL you can see striking similiraties with the short history of the MLS. In fact, MLS is overcoming more hurdles than these leagues did. We neglect the fact that the modern era of technological globalization and consumerism actually slows the growth of non soccer fans toward soccer. Back then you didn't have the choices you have now, cable and the internet did not exist. Ratings are down across the board, the NBA, NHL, MLB cannot afford to have their most followed teams out of Finals or World Series because ratings go down dramatically. It also includes the regular season. Television, radio, print media, music, they all have suffered because the landscape has changed, it has become more difficult to adapt in order not lose money. Look at the transformations of MTV, talk radio, ESPN to appeal to audiences. MLS is not the exception.

    Ten years ago the ratings were a little better, mainly because soccer fans did not have the options they have now. Gol TV, FSC, ESPN Deportes, Justin tv, etc… I'm not making excuses for MLS because until the quality improves and more stars, no gimmick is going to catch the casual viewer. Ratings is the last thing I am worried about when we talk about progression of soccer in this country, don' t get me wrong, it's sad to see anemic ratings. If we study sports history, you will see that the last hurdle for real stablishment for the leagues was televison. That is true for NFL, NBA, NHL and WWE(I don't consider it a sport). MLS still has a lot of growing to do and there are different phases that we must go through in order to get to where we want to be.

    ESPN has a lot to be blamed for when it comes to the type of image that MLS has in America. You cannot sell a product when the people who sell don't know the product. A buddy of mine that I use to work with, now works for ESPN Deportes in Bristol. He was part of the production crew for MLS Primetime and he tells me that there was no real commitment to give a good product even if the hosts wanted to, no real understanding from executive producers. Believe me, a good show starts at the top, not with the host. ESPN Deportes is succesful because they have people in charge who understand and are passionate about soccer and know what people want . I really believe that if ESPN showed good analysis and more coverage, the other hosts and commentators wouldn't be so quick to make dumb comments, completely disrespecting our league. I don't believe that this will make soccer way more popular, but it will help.

    MLS will keep growing, just look at Seattle and Toronto.

  16. Julio Lopes says:

    hey calm down there Galaxy fan. I was talking about MLS as a whole. I agree that the Galaxy were awesome for those 3 years. The rest of the league wasn't that great. Including my Metrostars!

  17. Milan says:

    Becks didn't find MLS as easy as he thought and thus has bailed.

    The best thing for MLS would be to focus on localized talent.

  18. Jonathan says:

    And so the inevitable conclusion of the Beckham circus is about to happen…. I'm getting my popcorn ready!

    To those who constantly state that MLS is now broadcast all over the world:
    Is there really demand for it? Are people actually talking among themselves about how great MLS games are? Honestly, that whole broadcasted on X countries claim is like the “attendance” figure.

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