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Beckham Got It Right

April 2nd, 2013 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Barcelona, Football, France, Pro League, soccer, The National, UAE

I am not too obstinate — OK, sometimes I am — to concede when I got one wrong. Or at least partly wrong.

In January, I was certain David Beckham had picked the wrong club to join for the “one last challenge” he spoke of when he left the L.A. Galaxy, in December. That club being Paris Saint-Germain.

In The National, I had suggested in print, several times, that he ought to come to the Gulf. In specific to the Al Jazira club in Abu Dhabi, where his arrival would have been met with rapturous glee, and where he could have been a significant contributor to a local team for the final four-plus months of the domestic season.

What I did not take into account was … Beckham apparently can still play at a higher level. That, I did not expect.

Tonight, Becks became the first Englishman to play in the Champions League for four clubs — Manchester United, Real Madrid and AC Milan being the others — when he started for PSG in the Parc des Princes against Barcelona.

The game concluded with a 2-2 score, and who advances to the Champions League semifinals will be determined by a match in Barcelona next Wednesday. PSG will be hard-pressed to survive, if Milan’s fate in the past round is any indication — the Italian side won 2-0 at home, then was nuked 4-0 in Barcelona.

PSG needs to win outright to advance, or manage a draw of 3-3 or higher. (Away goals, remember.) If it finishes 2-2, it goes to extra time.

Opinion seems divided on how well Beckham played, in the 70 minutes before he came off with Barcelona leading 1-0.

Some (many of them English) thought he was quite good. Others think he was merely adequate. (The National’s columnist, Ali Khaled, wrote that Beckham, PSG’s “trophy”,  “showed fleetingly that he can still caress a football as well as anyone. The stamina and fitness, however, are on the wane. Stronger legs will be needed in the second leg.”)

Beckham seemed to think he did well.

Either way, he did not embarrass himself, which tells us a couple of things.

1. Major League Soccer is (again, still) better than those of us who live on the eastern side of the Atlantic Ocean believe. I had decided that a guy who was certainly not the best player in MLS needed to take a further step down in quality if he were to be a difference-maker in what, at the time, seemed to be the final months of his career. What we saw, though, was that a good MLS player can compete against a team like Barcelona — perhaps provided he has the decades of experience of a David Beckham, who turns 38 a month from today.

2. His decision was not about advancing his brand; it was about playing at the highest level he could find.

I thought his best bet was to go to a new realm. (Well, I still do.) But his ability to get on with France’s best club shows he was not thinking only of business and exposure.

And yes, he would have been a sensation here. Beyond huge. Paris is far too sophisticated to go nuts over him; the UAE would have.

I thought his decision was particularly curious when watching him gingerly maneuvering over frozen European pitches during a particular cold winter. But he got through without injuring himself, and now he will be better off away from the final months of the season in the Gulf, when temperatures can (and will) soar.

So, well-played, Becks.

You are not making new fans in any numbers, not like you would have done coming here. But you have shown you can still play in the highest competition in the world, and your suggestion you would still like to play for England no longer elicits guffaws.

A guy like that is not ready for the Gulf. Not yet. Maybe we can catch you next year or the year after, for a final, final challenge.

Beckham got it right.


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