David Beckham adds skill - and PR credibility - to PSG

Posted by Alexander Netherton

Just a few days ago, you would have been forgiven for forgetting about David Beckham. The speculation in the past months over where he might find himself hasn't exactly enthralled. In fact, it's been deeply dull. The most interesting point was that the variety of offers he supposedly had served only to confuse us about what, exactly, his level was. Beckham was given the chance to play in Europe, South America, North America, South Africa, Russia, China and the Middle East as he looked for what will likely be his last club. His move to Paris Saint-Germain raises the obvious question: What does everyone expect to get from this?

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Until he plays his first few games, it will be hard to discern whether he is still capable of contributing in a truly competitive league. That is not to denigrate football in America, which improved noticeably throughout Beckham's stay in Los Angeles, but there will be greater expectations placed upon him in the more demanding surroundings of Ligue 1. Beckham won't play every match, and it would be a surprise to see him complete many games, given the amount of running required by most midfielders in France. What he will be able to offer, though, is years of experience and professionalism to a club undergoing a transformation.

Don't forget that Beckham already played for Carlo Ancelotti (in his first loan spell at AC Milan), performing well enough on the right side and in the centre of midfield to be invited back for a second spell in 2010. Ancelotti talks in his autobiography of a fondness for Beckham, recalling a night of almost competitive eating in one of his favourite restaurants it Italy. It would be expected that as well as taking Beckham out to some of his favourite places in Paris, he might have particular requirements from his new signing. Beckham can't do much for the club, but he can still offer guidance to the team. As Ancelotti wrote, “He's an impeccable professional, a workaholic, and an almost excessively well-mannered gentleman, with all the class of a very honest person.” This is precisely what they need.

Even though he is a great player and talisman for PSG, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is also a fantastic egotist. It will not hurt PSG to have a player with achievements to match Ibrahimovic's, but who at the same time will offer a word of advice in the ear rather than a kung fu kick. Lucas Moura and Marco Verratti are both young players who have exquisite qualities, but who would learn from from a player who knows the difficulties of how to fulfill their talent. Similarly, Javier Pastore might benefit from a few words about how to live up to expectations in the middle of struggles for form. More generally, in midfield and across the team, Paris Saint-Germain still play the game with a degree of immaturity, unable to reliably keep ten men on the pitch or make sure they take three points with ruthlessness. Beckham, winner of the Premier League and La Liga, will add a sense of calm and experience to their play.

It's not just in Ligue 1 that he can help them. Having played over 100 games in European competitions for Manchester United, Milan and Real Madrid, he will not be cowed by PSG's upcoming games in the Champions League. Next month, PSG play Valencia in the first knockout round, and given Valencia's troubles this season, it is utterly possible that PSG will (with luck) be able to get through to the quarterfinals. There would be few better players to have in the squad than David Beckham. He might only play 20 minutes in each game, but the advice and experience he can offer young players -- not to mention the empathy he could impart to the older players now at the club in stressful times -- will stand the team in good stead.

However, it is not simply his ballin' skills and experience that will have appealed to Paris Saint-Germain. Perhaps most importantly, David Beckham offers the kind of credibility that appeals to owners concerned as much with PR as with trophies. A player who has won the Champions League, but with no danger of creating much controversy. A man who will look good in interviews, either with his shirt on or off, and who will do no harm in making PSG seem like a thoroughly modern side. He is a genuine celebrity with a history including the two most famous clubs in football, Manchester United and Real Madrid, and has proved he can attract much positive publicity to an entire league from his time at LA Galaxy. With PSG looking to the future, possibly at Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo this summer, credibility is what they need the most. David Beckham might not be able to deliver that on the pitch, and certainly not every week, but he can definitely give them some reflected glory to build upon.

What does Beckham get out of it? Well, he gets to remind Europe that he still exists. He gets the chance to prove that he is still intermittently capable of excellence. Were he to have retired last year, after missing out on the Olympics and Euro 2012, the continent's last memories would have been of his injury in Milan in 2010. Now, Paris' main rivals in the league, Lyon, are letting players go to save money, rather than investing in a run at the league. This is a perfect chance for Beckham to prove that, above all, he's still capable of winning trophies.

Alexander Netherton edits the Surreal Football Magazine and can be found on Twitter here.

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