If David Beckham is included in the Los Angeles Galaxy team that lines up against Major League Soccer (MLS) rivals New York Red Bulls on July 16, one of his team mates will not be a happy man.
Landon Donovan has just returned from Confederations Cup duty in South Africa, where he led the USA national team to a final against Brazil which very nearly ended in a sensational victory over the superstars from South America. But now Donovan, who is the most capped player in the current US team, is making the headlines for an entirely different reason.
It was in 2007 that David Beckham, a hugely successful player on the field and something of an icon off the field, signed for Los Angeles Galaxy , hoping not just to provide a boost for his new team but also for a sport that often struggles to attract the same interest and publicity as the likes of American Football, Basketball and Baseball. Yet it seems that any early enthusiasm the former England captain may have had for his new home quickly faded. Certainly if the man who lost the Galaxy captaincy to Beckham is to be believed.
In a book titled 'The Beckham Experiment', written by Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated, which is being published merely days before Beckham is due to reappear in Galaxy colors, Landon Donovan holds little back in his criticism of the man who earlier this year became the most capped outfield player, he has won 112 caps, in the history of the English national team. Citing Ruud Gullit's departure as Galaxy coach as one factor for Beckham's apparent disinterest, Donovan has this to say in a passage of the book that is reproduced in the Daily Mirror:All that we care about at a minimum is that he committed himself to us. As time has gone on, that has not proved to be the case in many ways – on the field, off the field. Does the fact that he earns that much money come into it? Yeah. If someone’s paying you more than anybody in the league, more than double anybody in the league, the least we expect is that you show up to every game, whether you’re suspended or not. Show up and train hard. Show up and play hard. Maybe he’s not a leader, maybe he’s not a captain. Fair enough. But at a minimum you should bust your ass every day. That hasn’t happened. And I don’t think that’s too much for us to expect. Especially when he’s brought all this on us. I can’t even say he’s a good team-mate any more. He’s not shown that. I can’t think of another guy where I’d say he wasn’t a good team-mate, he didn’t give everything through all this, he didn’t still care. But with Beckham, I’d say no, he wasn’t committed. Let’s say he does stay here three more years. I’m not going to spend the next three years of my life doing it this way.
Any accusations that Donovan harbors bitterness towards Beckham because of the limelight the Englishman may have stolen from him are perhaps best answered by looking at Beckham's own actions relating to his recent loan spell with Italian team AC Milan.
With even some Milan players apparently questioning the motive and value of the move, Beckham joined the Italians on January 7 this year. It was considered by many to be an attempt on Beckham's part to keep himself in the thoughts of England manager Fabio Capello, whilst retaining his match fitness in what is one of the world's top soccer leagues.
All the time insisting that he would be back in the US for the new MLS season in March, Beckham duly did an about-face in February, announcing that he wished to join Milan on a permanent basis and confirming that the continuation of his international career was the primary reason behind that wish. In the end Galaxy and Milan could not agree on a transfer fee. But an extension of Beckham's loan until July was agreed.
David Beckham has frequently divided opinion amongst soccer fans and players alike. Many question if his on-field commitment is undermined by his off-field activities. And the phenomenal amounts of money that he earns cannot always be good for team morale. According to the Daily Mirror his basic package at Galaxy each year nets him £4m ($6.6m), with sponsorship deals taking the annual figure to nearer £30m ($49.2m). Compare that to his team mates in LA who are thought to earn roughly £30,000 ($49,200) on an annual basis.
Nevertheless his record with club and country pretty much speaks for itself. But everyone is entitled to make mistakes and considering the unhappiness with him that now seems to exist there it may be that moving to California was one mistake that David Beckham made.