x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

David Beckham can be a master of Paris with PSG

The chance for more medals and Champions League action lure the star to Paris Saint-Germain, writes Paul Oberjuerge.

David Beckham poses with PSG president Nasser Al Khelaifi, right, and sports director Leonardo.
David Beckham poses with PSG president Nasser Al Khelaifi, right, and sports director Leonardo.

Paris Saint-Germain apparently represents the "one last challenge" David Beckham spoke of two months ago when he said he would be leaving the LA Galaxy for a destination unknown. He has signed with the France club for the final five months of the Ligue 1 season, surprising everyone who quite clearly heard PSG deny the slightest interest in him, back in December.

The appeal of PSG for Beckham is obvious. Paris; a chance to contribute to a league championship in a fourth country, following England, Spain and the United States; the opportunity to play in the Champions League one more time.

PSG have drawn Valencia in their tie to reach the final eight and Beckham could be playing in the greatest club tournament in 10 days' time. If PSG reach the final, Beckham could make an appearance at Wembley Stadium on May 25.

But his decision is not all sunny upsides. He is unlikely to be received with any fervour in Paris or, especially, France. He is a known quantity in western Europe, and he likely will be seen in a more harsh light: as a footballer who has played at an elite level only a handful of times since 2007.

Playing for PSG in Ligue 1 may be too big an "ask" for a man who will be 38 in May. One attraction of Major League Soccer was the game's step down in class from Spain. Ligue 1, however, is ranked the fifth-strongest league in Europe by Uefa, just behind Italy.

MLS, it is not.

Beckham's preferred position, on the right side of midfield, in PSG's past two league games has been occupied by the newcomer Lucas Moura, the 20-year-old Brazilian who cost a club-record transfer fee of €45 million (Dh225.2m) back in August. Other worthies in midfield include Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti and Blaise Matuidi.

And there is the issue of money. Beckham said he is giving his "huge" salary to charity, which is a nice thought, but cynics cannot help but wonder if much of this deal is PSG getting a former galactico on the bench in exchange for letting him kit out in PSG gear and perhaps play the final 20 minutes when they are down a goal.

The notion persists he could have made a safer and more productive choice in the Gulf, perhaps with Al Jazira or Al Ahli, located in world cities of their own, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Beckham would have created a sensation in the UAE, perhaps bigger even than Diego Maradona. It could be construed, however, that he did commit himself to the Gulf, after all.

PSG are owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, and going forward he could become a brand ambassador for the 2022 World Cup, to be contested in Qatar. On Friday, he hinted at a long-term relationship with the club. If joining PSG in 2013 is really about Qatar 2022, then the canniest self-promoter in the game may have made another brilliant decision.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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