The pressure is on Beckham to win matches
David Beckham touches down in the US today to start at new club LA Galaxy. But can someone who is a class apart in talent, pay and fame ever really be part of the team?
By Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine
When it comes to winning matches, the US soccer season is not going too well for LA Galaxy. As it prepares to unveil its latest signing on Friday it is languishing second from bottom in Major League Soccer's Western Standings.
It's a position the club has found itself in with disappointing regularity in recent years. However, its fortunes might just be about to change as its new signing is David Beckham.
He's being hailed as the team's saviour and on a contract reportedly worth £128m, nothing short of a miracle is expected of him. On the pitch however he will be one player out of 11 and, as any football coach will tell you, it's the team that wins games not individuals - even if they are Beckham.
The Beckhams introduce themselves
But is it possible to build a successful team from one global superstar and a squad of relative unknowns, who play in a league compared by some to England's League One, in a country where football is way down the sporting agenda?
The contrasts are stark. Beckham is reported to be on 500 times the salary of some of his team mates, has captained his country in the World Cup and counts Tom Cruise as a close, personal friend.
His arrival has already had an "adverse effect" on the side, admits LA Galaxy general manager Alexi Lalas.
But while it is an extreme example, this is a situation ordinary workers find themselves in on a daily basis and more often than not it all works out, says workplace psychologist Gary Fitzgibbon.
"It is possible to successfully parachute in someone who is way above everyone else in terms of performance and ability. If handled properly that person can become a motivator for others, a role model.
"The real challenge for Beckham - possibly one of the toughest he has faced in his career - is to prove this move is about more than just money and celebrity status. The first people he needs to prove this to is the players."
It's how Beckham's arrival is handled by the club and by the player himself that's the key to success.
"The management should have already let Beckham meet his team mates, before the big media unveiling. This is so they can start to feel an affinity with him as a colleague, rather than a superstar who is remote and inaccessible.
"What Beckham needs to get across is that he doesn't just want to run around being admired by them, he wants to learn what their strengths and weaknesses are so they can play well together."
A posh package
It's a huge challenge but that's exactly what Beckham responds to, says sports psychologist Martin Perry.
"He has always risen to challenges throughout his career. He came back after the Argentina incident in the 1998 World Cup and recently fought his way back into the England squad. I don't think just cruising along as brand Beckham makes him happy.
"To be successful he doesn't have to become everyone's best friend, but he needs to get across his love and enthusiasm for the game. If he can bring players up to his level in terms of those qualities, then he could reach a point where the other stuff is quickly forgotten."
But one thing his team mates will find tough to forget is the money he will earn. The MLS has a salary cap of about £1.1m a year per team, which limits the number of top players any one side can sign. Beckham's wages are excluded because he is the club's designated player, the single exception to the cap that each team is allowed. Any sensible manager might make the financial benefits filter down in other ways to his team mates.
The media hype has already started
"It's crucial the financial benefits cascade down from Beckham to all the team, if it's just one-way traffic then it will benefit no one - on and off the pitch," says Mr Perry. "There should be financial incentives such bonuses for winning matches. It will motivate everyone."
The former England captain seems to be aware of what is needed to make his move a success on the pitch. In a recent interview he said: "I'm not a player who will run past 10 players and score three or four goals. My game is about working hard and being a team player."
But it's never just about David when it comes to the Beckhams. It's a "two for the price of one offer" with Posh as part of the package. One former England player says it's hard to become part of any team if you are a global brand like the Beckhams.
"With his own promotional commitments and those for the club, there's a good chance the other players won't see much of him at the training ground," says former England player Chris Waddle. "That's the place where a team is built, the place where you build relationships with other players.
"It could be very frustrating for the rest of the them. They will probably be known as David Beckham's team and not LA Galaxy, which isn't good for team morale. They will be caught up in a media circus which they have had little experience of and probably won't enjoy."
He may have a point, the media frenzy is already in full flow.
The club's general manager Lalas says it is an environment, and situation, that none of our players have ever gone through before.
"It has had an adverse effect on us, but we need to get used to the situation," he adds.
Welcome to life with the Beckhams Mr Lalas.
Below is a selection of your comments:
Why can't people give the guy a chance before knocking him!!!
Does he has to CONTINUALY prove himself.
It is a fact that he was a pivotal part of a Manchester United team which won many trophies including the treple (EPL, FA CUP and EURO CUP). He returned from the nightmare of 98 world cup - when he had to endure death threats and see effergys - but produced the best from of his life.
He has won the LaLiga playing for Real Madrid - probably the most celebrated club in world club football.
He is the only English player to score in 3 different World Cup's.
He had captained his country and recently forced his way back into the squad after being told he wouldn't play again.
What else does the guy have to do!!!! YES he gets paid way too much - but then again so does James, A-rod and Manning. But if someone is willing to pay it, take it!
YES - his wife is a little annoying - but they are celebrities and that is what the world created and they are only taking the opportunity given them (i bet the spice girls concerts in the US all sell out still!!).
Mark my words.....Becks will prevail. He will come good here and be successful. LA will see an upturn in fortune and we can all look back to Beckham being the pivotal start point of it!!
Glen, Maryland, USA
The photograph of Beckham and his wife posing in their skivvies tells all. His move to the US is nothing but media hype.
Tony Storey, Sudbury, Canada
Beckham has the tendency to always come through obstacles positively and although this is a big one I think he'll do well. But there is only so well you can do in a 3rd rate league.
How can one man change the footballing worlds perception of the MLS? If Cruyff, Beckenbauer and Pele couldn't do it then how can Beckham?
He shouldn't be 'retiring' at this stage in his career.
No Man is worth that much. I agree that david is a fantastic player, but to place him like a God above everyone else, is a fool's way of spending money. Their hollywood status will soon fade after it is shown that the team will not succeed as expected and that David is not the be all and end all of Football( soccer)
jon burow, portsmouth UK
LA Galaxy didn't sign Beckham just to spend money. They did it to raise their profile, make money and to imporive their on pitch performance.
Brand Beckham will increase thier revenue and this plus his effect on the pitch will lead to salary increases for the team and so to better players and so to success.. and on and on
Alexr, London UK
David Beckham was the England Squad, the only one who pulled on the shirt with 3 lions and played with pride and passion. He did this for Man Utd and Real and will do the same for LA Galaxy because he is a true professional football player - Good Luck David.
Kay, Bracknell, England
Becks will be fine he is a quality player and when people begin to write him off he just comes back stronger take last season at real for example! I will be hoping that becks can continue to perform in the MLS and hopefully keep his England ambitions in tact.
Good Luck Becks
Scott Monteith, Leeds
I strongly believe an adverse effect will be the reation due to the rest of LA Galaxy feeling put out by the media attention and if things do not go to plan on the field fingers wil point at too much pressure placed apon players which do not have the ability which Beckham is used to playing alongside. You play as well as the team around you and i feel it will be a one season stay.
dan m, Southampton
As an Englishman living in New York for the last 12 years, I think this is great news. Soccer in the US has come along way and Beckham will do well promoting the beautiful game over here.
Andy Millar, Buffalo, New York USA
Whilst the expectations of David Beckham in the US my well be unrealistically high, we should remember that he is a player of world class ability and experience who is about to be playing in a league that doesn't even match up to The Championship here, let alone the Premiership.
Anyone who doubts the gulf in standards should look at the impact that Juan Pablo Angel has had since his move from Aston Villa to New York Red Bulls earlier in the year. JPA has struggled to find any sort of form in the last two years, but made an immediate impact in the MSL, with 8 goals to his credit in just 10 matches the last time I checked.
Will Beckham rescue LA Galaxy? No-one can possibly know.
Will he stand head and shoulders above almost every player in the league? Almost certainly.
Phil Coxon, Farnborough, Hampshire
However one point is missing is that in a fair number of American Sports and teams, there always seems to be a 'key' player, playmaker , superstar , hall of famer etc. The only difference here is that David Beckham was not born in the USA.
Leslie Jarrett, Slough, Berkshire
I really have had enough of hearing about the Beckham "brand". They're not a type of baked beans, although they may share similar IQ levels.
This move is a blatant attempt to "raise his profile" - or more to the point, his wife's - in America, which is pathetic, quite frankly. I daresay the team only signed him to raise their own profile, and will probably make up the money on merchandise, eg shirts with his name on them. The whole thing is a prime example of the financials cynicism which is destroying "The Beautiful Game" today.
Douglas Daniel, Glasgow, Scotland