Beckham: The right move?

If you type in the words 'David Beckham - LA Galaxy' into the search engine of any news gathering website, you will notice that over 1,000 articles have been posted on the internet in the past 24 hours alone.

The majority of these articles seem to centre on whether Beckham and his wife Victoria, will be a hit in Hollywood, whether his arrival in Major League Soccer will boost the profile of the sport in the US and whether his effect on his new team will be positive.

Back on 11 January, the former Manchester United man announces his decision to move across the Atlantic, saying: "After discussing several options with my family and advisers to either stay here at Madrid or join other major British and European clubs, I have decided to join the Los Angeles Galaxy and play in the MLS from August this year. I look forward to the new challenge of growing the world's most popular game in a country that is as passionate about its sport as my own."

A little over six months later, on Friday 13 July, Beckham, now 32 years-old, will be officially unveiled. The former Galactico is joining a club near the bottom of the western division, and their president, former USA international Alexi Lalas, believes that the arrival of the England midfielder has been a telling factor in the club's stuttering start to the MLS season.

"It has had an adverse effect on us but we need to get used to the situation," said Lalas. "This is unlike any year that any MLS team has ever had. It's unique in terms of the attention, the scheduling, the pressure, the focus and the scrutiny."

But what of the effect it may have on Beckham's professional career? He arrives Stateside with his stock having risen considerably from the start of 2007. Exiled from Steve McClaren's England squad and having been told by Fabio Capello that he would never play for Real Madrid again; the Londoner displayed a professional attitude and showed his worth on the training pitch in the Spanish capital.

Back to business
A month later, with Beckham's efforts going some way to restore Capello's faith in him, the Italian selected the No23 for the Merengues' match against Real Sociedad. The Englishman scored and Real Madrid won. Despite a knee ligament injury which ruled him out for most of March, Beckham's star was in its ascendancy once more.

On 26 May 2007, McClaren announced that Beckham would be recalled to the England squad for the first time since Germany 2006. He started the match against Brazil in the Three Lions match at the new Wembley and set up the first full international goal at the new stadium. His perfectly weighted free-kick from the right was met by the head of captain John Terry - and 'Becks' was once again a national hero.

Five days later, he repeated the feat, creating goals for Michael Owen and Peter Crouch as England defeated Estonia by three goals to nil. A fortnight later, Beckham was celebrating once again as Real Madrid pipped Barcelona to the La Liga title, giving the former Manchester United star a perfect send-off from the Santiago Bernabeu.

With Beckham's career enjoying a renaissance, should he not have continued in Spain for a few more years? Certainly, the player himself had doubts. "I felt capable of staying for longer at Real," he said. "I could have still played for three more seasons at the highest level. But after the club told me in January that they did not want to renew my contract, I took this decision.

"The day we won the title with a 3-1 win over Real Mallorca my heart ached - but the decision was already taken."

Pele offers advice
Yet arguably the greatest footballer of all time, Pele, believes that Beckham will find the MLS just as competitive as the English and Spanish top-flights.

Pele, who played for New York Cosmos in the NASL, said: "I advise him it will be very difficult to play because the teams are very good and mark very well. He must be prepared, be in good condition because it is not easy to play in the United States. The football is now at a high level.

"I came here to start (the professional game). The football here was just amateur and college. The football has grown a lot over here. I had the opportunity to play with great players - Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto, Giorgio Chinaglia, Johan Cruyff. This motivated the kids, the people, to come into the game. Now Beckham has to continue the work."

Echoing Pele's statements, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho believes that Beckham will help to bring football to the masses across the Atlantic.

"I think it's a pity for European football that a good player like him is gone but we all in Europe want soccer in the US to go up," he said. "It is a market that if it does then it is good for everybody and they couldn't choose a better player for their objectives because he is more than a player."

The former England captain, who will probably make his debut in a 21 July friendly against Mourinho's Chelsea, has admitted that he is feeling nervous about playing for his new club.

"People probably do think they're going to see me turn out, and we'll win our first game 10-0," he said. "That's one thing I'm worried about. 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."

Perhaps the litmus test for Beckham's decision career-wise will come in his appearances for England's UEFA EURO 2008 qualifying campaign. Should he help McClaren's men to the finals in Austria/Switzerland, he will be feted as a hero once more, but should his form dip on the international stage, then long flights and 'superstar status' will surely be blamed.

However, his impact on MLS, could be longer, more lucrative and potentially far reaching. At present, Beckham is adorning the front cover of the Sports Illustrated magazine, a rare honour for a footballer. If the US takes a greater interest in football, because of Beckham's arrival, then the consequences for the global game could indeed be huge.