Signing with PSG is consistent with Beckham’s peregrinations since leaving Manchester United in 2003 — big clubs in world cities.
He could have done it in a far more interesting manner, however, by signing in another world city.
Dubai. Or Abu Dhabi.
The upsides to Paris are significant. It’s Paris.
It puts Beckham in a league for which he has not played, which has been another facet of his modus operandi when he has moved — to Real Madrid (Spain), to the Los Angeles Galaxy (Major League Soccer), to AC Milan (Italy, on two loan deals).
And he has a chance to play in the Champions League, which has to be a significant lure. (PSG is in the final 16 of the tournament, and plays at Valencia on February 12.)
But let’s consider the downsides.
It is not clear Beckham is a beloved figure in France. That rivalry with England, and all.
France is not virgin territory for soccer and he is unlikely to create any sort of spike in interest or attendance. The French have decided on him long ago.
PSG and Ligue 1 also might be too strong for a guy who will turn 38 in May. Can he get into PSG’s lineup?
His preferred position, on the right side, has been manned, these past few weeks, by the 20-year-old Brazilian Lucas Moura, who signed with PSG in August on a transfer fee of about $60 million and joined the team this month. Does Beckham expect Carlo Ancellotti to sit the New Kid?
Beckham is not taking any salary. He said he is giving it to charity, which is a nice thought, but the cynic in me wonders if that represents any money at all. Is PSG simply allowing Becks to dress in PSG gear and travel with the team and maybe play the last 20 minutes when they are down a goal?
Clearly, he is not going to be in great physical form; he was not known to be working out regularly since his last game with the Galaxy, on December 2, until a few days ago, when he was running around at Arsenal.
Meanwhile, had he come to the Mideast ….
Al Jazira of Abu Dhabi or Al Ahli of Dubai (or even a Qatari side), would have paid him money.
He would have played exactly as many minutes as he wanted. If he was up for 90 every game over the next four months, great. If he wanted 45, that could have happened, too. Pro League teams can be flexible in matters like these.
He would have been a short drive away from Diego Maradona, who is still hanging out in Dubai. El Diego will tell anyone who asks that Dubai is the greatest thing to happen to him for years.
Beckham would have taken Brand Beckham to corners of the globe who have never seen him and might have turned out in large numbers to see him play.
Jazira, for instance, over the next four months will play games in Tabriz, Iran; in Doha, Qatar and in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Not to mention Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Playing in the Gulf would have put Beckham in the Arab and Moslem world, places he has never gone, and if football is already well-established here, fans here are not jaded and would be excited by a Beckham sighting.
Also, the French league is not one long stretch of bright lights. Upcoming road games for PSG include trips to Toulouse, Sochaux, Reims, Rennes, Troyes, Saint-Etienne, Evian … And some of those clubs play in stadiums far less modern (and smaller, as well) than the typical MLS stadium.
I understand the upsides to PSG. Paris, being the main one, a chance to be part of a league champion, a last chance to play in the Champions League.
Being paid to play in the Gulf, making exotic trips to Asian cities, and being treated like a superstar at every turn while living in luxury … this would have been the bolder move and, I think, the smarter move.