Posted: Wednesday January 17, 2007 8:17AM; Updated: Wednesday January 17, 2007 9:13AM
With Beckham's days with Real Madrid all but done, the Galaxy would have been better off paying the transfer fee to bring him to the U.S. sooner.
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3.Why didn't the Galaxy go ahead and pay a transfer fee to get Beckham for the start of the MLS season in April? No matter how many times I've asked Galaxy officials, I can't get a straight answer on why they didn't just pay Real Madrid a transfer fee (probably anywhere from the high seven-figures to low eight-figures) so that Beckham could be with L.A. from the start of the season in April instead of joining the team as late as August. (Beckham's contract with Real Madrid runs through June 30.)
Lalas says that Beckham has a lot of pride and didn't want to leave Madrid in midseason, while Leiweke says he didn't want to cause any problems for the Spanish giants. "We have a good relationship with Real Madrid, so we've tried to go out of our way to make sure we've never stepped on their toes," he says. "The last thing I want to do is anything that harms them."
Granted, Leiweke was talking before Madrid coach Fabio Capello put Beckham in purgatory, announcing that he'd never play again for Real Madrid, and before club president Ramón Calderón ripped Beckham in comments on Tuesday. This is a fluid situation, of course -- the Galaxy may yet step up and pay for a transfer -- but last Friday Leiweke said it's a matter between Real Madrid and Beckham.
"At some point or another, do they want to buy him out? I don't know, and I'm not Real Madrid," Leiweke said. "But if it got to a point where someone came to us and said, 'Would you welcome David earlier and begin to pay him earlier?' my answer is I'd see him tomorrow. But that's not our decision. That's for Real Madrid and David."
Well, no, it doesn't have to be. L.A. could cough up the money itself. Then again, it's possible that Beckham's transfer price is higher than the high-seven- or low-eight figures, which might explain why the Galaxy hasn't gone ahead and made it happen. As it stands right now, though, Beckham will simply have to practice with (but not play for) Real Madrid until June 30. I'm expecting the first FREE DAVID BECKHAM bumper stickers to appear in Hollywood this week.
4.Does the Galaxy really plan to go on a preseason Asian tour in 2008 just like the big European clubs? Yep. AEG just opened an Asia office and is seeking to get into the entertainment and facilities business there. "They have a lot of new stadiums coming on-line for the Olympics, so our timing's impeccable," Leiweke says. "We'll have an opportunity to do something in Asia before the beginning of the '08 season, and that's what we'll line up. We'll get David and Simon Fuller [his closest adviser] helping us think that through, and we hope to do a four- to six-game swing through Asia."
Will the Galaxy go out and buy another big star from a European club? Almost certainly not. The Galaxy could trade for a second designated-player (DP) slot for 2007 -- a team is allowed two max -- but there's an extra wrinkle here. Due to his $900,000 annual salary, which is above the league "maximum," forward Landon Donovan is grandfathered this season but starts counting as a DP in 2008.
"We've talked about [a second DP for 2007], but then what do we do with three of them next year?" says Leiweke. "I happen to think we have the second guy. Frank [Yallop, the Galaxy coach] is really pushing this, and I think he's 100 percent right: He thinks this takes Landon Donovan and makes him a world-class player ... On one extent we just took all the pressure off Landon: he doesn't have to carry the team alone. On the other extent, Landon now has an unbelievable opportunity to be the kind of player many people think he can become."
It's going to be tough enough for L.A. to trade for the second DP slot everyone knows the Galaxy has to have for 2008 if it wants to keep Beckham and Donovan. The current value of a DP slot has been set at Amado Guevara, the former league MVP who was traded by the New York Red Bulls to Chivas USA for a DP slot. My guess is the Galaxy will have to give up even more value than that to keep Donovan, not least because everyone knows such a trade has to happen.
5.How did the Beckham deal get done? Strap yourself in -- this is a fun tale.
First off, let's go back to something I wrote about Beckham and the Galaxy in SI in the summer of 2005:
"What if [Leiweke] ... started talking big about landing the Spice Boy when his contract with Madrid expires in 2007? Actually, Leiweke ... already has. Beckham has "an open invitation" to play in MLS, says Leiweke, who has told reporters he's convinced it's going to happen. But can Leiweke, who has a reputation for hype-slinging, back up his big predictions?"
Now we know the answer (in Beckham's case, at least): Yes.
By 2005, Leiweke had already started laying the groundwork for the Beckham signing. The connection came in 2002 when Leiweke met Terry Byrne, one of Beckham's managers, in London (where AEG has had several projects). The Galaxy's stadium, the Home Depot Center, was under construction, and Leiweke and Byrne began discussing Beckham's interest in perhaps starting a soccer academy with a branch in Los Angeles.