Good old Paris, always the city of romance. David Beckham and Paris St-Germain fell into each others’ arms, smitten with a short-term passion from the Englishman’s perspective and an amorous long-term game-plan devised by the club’s Qatari owners.
Such was the mutual infatuation that the contract was consummated in the middle of the night. Sealed by candlelight. How very Parisian.
It seems a dream deal for both parties. If David Beckham keeps his eyes open, and his crosses on target, he can do no wrong. Newly arrived from LA Galaxy, Beckham is not in Paris that long, probably not even long enough to appreciate that Notre Dame is not an away fixture for UCLA, that Les Invalides is less of a show than Les Miserables and the Sorbonne is not an ice cream.
Beckham is in Paris to do what he loves, playing football and whipping in some balls to a centre-forward (Zlatan Ibrahimovic), and to do what this photogenic personality does brilliantly, promoting the PSG name around the world in keeping with the Qatari owners’ grand design.
Those BECKHAM shirts at £73 a pop are good for business, and for that ambitious long shot of coming vaguely close to conforming with Uefa’s FFP, but the proverbial “project” is slightly more sophisticated than mere retail-related. The Qataris want to improve their image, and particularly tackle their tainted success in winning the rights to host the 2022 World Cup. Beckham gives them credibility, an English icon with a Football Association blazer hanging up in his extensive wardrobe. So, this is where Beckham must be careful; that he does not become an unwitting pawn in any political game the Qataris are playing.
So, go to Paris, David, enjoy your football, take Victoria to that restaurant table that catches the dipping sun in the corner of the Place des Vosges, but be mindful of the strategy of your smiling employers. Do not be dazzled. It was slightly unnerving to hear Beckham suggesting that he might work for the Qataris in the future. Be careful. These are people hosting a World Cup in a heatwave and remember that England melt above 20C (think Shizuoka 2002). Pick up a copy of France Football, flick through its exposť on 2022, and think.
There would be nothing more depressing than seeing Beckham deployed as a spokesman for Qatar 2022 when he is actually a wonderful envoy for the joys of football. Even at 37, he was on the move, extolling the virtues of ‘have boots will travel’, chasing the Champions League dream. Who would not?
January transfer-deadline day has seen madder moments, certainly when Andrei Sergeivitch Arshavin’s registration got held up in the snow between St Petersburg and Arsenal in 2009, but events in Wigan involving Paul Scharner and in Paris with Beckham encapsulated the extremes. Both are temporary deals until the summer but it is fair to say that any similarities end there.
Beckham, magnanimously, donated his five-month salary to a Parisian children’s charity, in one inspired swoop disarming his many critics.
Beckham adores his homeland, where his children are now being educated, yet in many ways his personality plays out better around the world, in less cynical places. The Americans, after a sticky start, loved him. Paris seems to be swooning like teenagers in the Tuileries.
Good for Becks. Only those with hearts of granite could begrudge this admirable ambassador for England, this genuinely likeable individual, his sojourn in Paris. Rip away all the commercial layers to Beckham and you are left with a 37-year-old who just wants to play football.
He remains seriously competitive, always wanting to prove a point.