OPINION: The drums are beating for football star David Beckham to sign with an A-League club.
Beckham is 37 and has been playing big-time football - for Manchester United, Real Madrid, Los Angeles Galaxy and (on loan) Milan - since 1993.
Central Coast Mariners, Perth Glory, Adelaide United, Sydney and, especially, Melbourne have been mentioned as clubs hoping to sign Beckham, so obviously there's no lack of interest.
Would he be an asset to an Australian club?
He's not the player he was when he earned 115 England caps. But he'd probably still be good enough to front up in the A-League, not running too much, and controlling things from further back with some pinpoint kicks to his strikers.
Undoubtedly, Beckham would prove a crowd draw, at least in the short term. Everywhere he played, spectator numbers would be boosted by at least several thousand until the Beckham novelty wore off.
But would he ultimately benefit the club?
When I was living in Southampton in the early 1980s, Southampton Football Club manager Lawrie McMenemy set about gathering a collection of valuable antiques, many of whom remind me of Beckham today. After a couple of years, McMenemy had on his books Kevin Keegan, Alan Ball, Mick Channon, Peter Shilton, Chris Nicholl, Dave Watson and Mick Mills, all of whom had played more than 40 internationals, plus sundry other test players such as Charlie George, Dave Armstrong, Phil Boyer and Yugoslav goalie Ivan Golac.
McMenemy's ageing stars, many of them approaching 30 from the wrong side, didn't win too much, but played respectably.
Southampton finished seventh, sixth, seventh and 12th in the first division from 1980 till 1983. What should be noted is that in 1984, when many of the golden oldies had been replaced by younger, more energetic players, Southampton finished second.
McMenemy's team gained a vast amount of media exposure. The letters "KK" seemed to appear in headlines in the Southern Evening Echo most days. Keegan was a major celebrity.
The team drew huge crowds. Spectators flocked to The Dell to watch such famous players and, when they played elsewhere in England, they proved equally big drawcards.
I have a feeling it would be the same with Beckham, if he ventured to Australia for a season or two.
He'd play respectably and the attendant publicity would be immense.
He and his celebrity wife Posh (also known as Victoria) would feature endlessly in the media and clubs everywhere would just love to host a team that included Beckham.
On the field, he'd try hard and every pass that reached its target would be described as a masterpiece.
But I wouldn't put money on Beckham heading this way.
Paris Saint Germain keep denying they are interested in signing him, but the rumours grow stronger. Also, there are evidently eight-figure offers from China and United Arab Emirates to tempt the Beckhams.
At last count their personal wealth was estimated at about $500 million, so it probably won't come down to money.
Having Beckham on the A-League circuit is an enticing prospect and stranger things have happened.
Joseph Romanos is a Wellington sports writer and broadcaster.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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