David Beckham considered offers from Paris, the Premier League and beyond but decided nothing was better than his adopted home with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The English superstar formally returned to his MLS club Thursday with a new two-year contract, vowing to win more trophies with the Galaxy while preparing to own an MLS franchise when his career ends. He’ll also be free to play at the Olympics if he’s chosen for Britain’s national squad.
After the excitement died down from the Galaxy’s run to the league title last season, Beckham mulled a career-ending stint with Paris St. Germain while there were a handful of clubs back in England that coveted his experience and leadership.
In the end, though, he made up his mind to stay in L.A. over a glass of wine on New Year’s Eve with his wife, Victoria.
“We’ve been happy here for the last five years, and we felt, why change something that works?” Beckham asked a packed room at Staples Center. “Los Angeles has been amazing to us as a family, so we’re going to continue to enjoy it. … We knew the first day that we arrived here that it would be a place that we’d spend many years, and I wasn’t wrong.”
The Beckhams’ four children are comfortable living in Southern California, and he felt his family’s well-being outweighed the intrigue of bigger offers and the temptation to test himself once again at the elite level of Europe.
“At 36 years old, to still have the offers that were being thrown at me, you have to look at all options,” Beckham said.
The bold experiment that began nearly five years ago has survived a rough start to become longer and more fruitful than nearly anybody expected when Beckham left Real Madrid and moved stateside, hoping to spread the world’s most popular sport in a nation that has always resisted its lure.
While Beckham’s move hasn’t transformed the sport in North America, he’s the biggest star and fan draw in MLS even after five seasons, and the Galaxy have been the league’s best team for two years.
“I must admit that I’ve never come back after a season with the Galaxy having been a champion,” Beckham said. “I wanted to have that feeling and enter back into that locker room a champion. And we are, but we’re not finished. I’m not just happy with one championship. I want more.”
Tim Leiweke, president of the AEG conglomerate that owns the Galaxy, said Beckham can play with the club for the rest of his career, if he chooses — and when he finally retires, AEG will help Beckham with his desire to own a franchise.
“For however long as he decides to play, the question of where he plays is not a question,” said Leiweke, whose company spent aggressively to assemble top talent around Beckham in the last two years. “Unless I’m mistaken, (ownership is) his future, once he decides to retire. We have structured that option in a way to allow David to become a partner in the league at some point in the near future and operate his own franchise.”
Even Beckham might not have predicted this outcome just two years into his tenure with the Galaxy, when the failed tenure of coach Ruud Gullit and the franchise’s general disarray prompted Beckham to twice go on loan to A.C. Milan, where he blew out his Achilles tendon in 2010.
Everything came together for Beckham in Los Angeles last year after he returned from injury and another training stint with Tottenham. He was among the league’s best players all season long with the Galaxy, who picked up Irish striker Robbie Keane as they topped the MLS table for the second straight season and steamrolled through the playoffs to the title.
Beckham set up Landon Donovan’s winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Houston in the MLS Cup on Nov. 20. Beckham celebrated the championship with his three sons on the Galaxy’s home field before saying he planned to debate his future over the holidays.
Beckham claimed he would consider staying with the Galaxy, yet many fans and observers in Europe didn’t believe him. Given his revitalized form with the Galaxy, many assumed he would take one of the offers sure to be dangled in front of him to resume his European career.
“I was always optimistic, because I felt he was really comfortable with the team and just happy,” said coach Bruce Arena, whose steady influence has been praised by Beckham. “We literally were working all the way through the year to get David back.”