By Steve Keating
(Reuters) – There will never be another David Beckham and those involved in perhaps the most significant signing in sport history say Major League Soccer does not need one having now established their own credentials and in no need of grandstanding.
Ten years ago on Wednesday Beckham sent shockwaves through the soccer world when he said goodbye to Real Madrid, soccer’s most glamorous club, to sign with Los Angeles Galaxy, giving upstart MLS a jolt of instant legitimacy and recognition.
“That was a steroid type of moment, the type of injection that was needed,” Alexi Lalas, who as general manager of the Galaxy helped lure Beckham to the United States, told Reuters.
In the decade since MLS has grown to 22 teams from 13 and last year had 50 designated players whose salaries do not count against the team salary cap, including high-profile names like David Villa and Kaka, none of whom come close to having the impact Beckham had off the field.
Today MLS teams are more interested in what marquee signings can bring to a club on the pitch while off-field contributions are viewed as a bonus.
“For sure it was a very seminal moment in the history of our league and it helped bring credibility and an awareness … the global exposure we were really seeking,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber told Reuters. “Today MLS doesn’t need that.
“Teams are looking to sign players who can first and foremost help them on the field, and if they can bring them some celebrity that’s great but that is no longer the objective.”
Certainly that has been the trend in recent years as teams focus on younger more dynamic signings who do their best work on the field.
Toronto striker and Italian international Sebastian Giovinco and Seattle’s Uruguayan midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro are just two members of the younger vanguard making an impact.
Even Tim Leiweke, the man who brokered the Beckham signing as then-president and CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group, the Galaxy’s corporate parent, admitted that the former England captain had a bigger impact off the pitch.
“One stat you won’t have from the league is the Galaxy never won a championship (with Beckham) until we got Robbie Keane,” Leiweke told Reuters. “We had David Beckham but it took Robbie Keane to push us over the top.”
“You could make an argument (Giovinco) coming from Juventus he’s been a more impactful player. He’s been that good.
“But David was the first one to prove the league was committed, it was going to grow, it was going to be dynamic and it was going to explode.
“Suddenly we went from surviving to conquering. That for me was the big change.”
(Editing by Frank Pingue)