Beckham silences critics with MLS title success
Miami: David Beckham`s five-year stint with Major League Soccer finally delivered his first league title with LA Galaxy, completing another turnaround for one of the game`s most polarizing figures.
Now it remains to be seen whether the MLS Cup victory over the Houston Dynamo was Beckham`s American swansong or if a return to Europe, or even retirement, are his next steps.
The crowd at the Home Depot Center made their preference known at the end of the game, chanting `Come Back David` but it was only a few months ago that many U.S. fans were hoping he might leave for good.
The former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder missed the bulk of last season due to an Achilles tendon injury picked up while on loan to AC Milan, a move many disapproved of.
In order to get fully fit for this season, Beckham went back to Britain to train with Tottenham Hotspur, during MLS`s long off-season and skipped the early stages of the Galaxy`s pre-season to continue working out near London.
"I wanted to go somewhere and train and not take the three months off and sit around doing nothing," said Beckham at the time.
But not everyone agreed with his choice and Beckham`s commitment to the Galaxy was questioned with one pundit beginning the season`s first televised game with a thinly-veiled swipe about Beckham "buying Shepherd`s pie" in London.
It had been worse. After returning from his first loan spell with AC Milan in July 2009, Beckham ended up in an angry confrontation with Galaxy fans who jeered him.
"Go Home Fraud" read one fan`s banner on display at the Galaxy`s stadium and stories emerged that some Galaxy players were not happy with Beckham`s attitude.
Beckham`s loan moves to Europe, skipping Galaxy`s early season games in the process, did not endear him to American fans, particularly given he was by far the league`s best paid player with an annual salary of USD 6 million.
This year though, the critics have been unable to find any cause for complaint.
Just as he came back from being a public enemy in England after being sent off against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup, eventually becoming English football`s global ambassador, and just as he turned a modest spell in Madrid into a success with a La Liga title for Real, Beckham has won over his detractors.
The Londoner was second in the league for assists, visibly worked hard in the 26 games he featured in, often battling pain of some kind and showed off his dead-ball and crossing ability throughout a season in which the Galaxy were unbeaten at home.
By last week, MLS commissioner Don Garber was declaring that the Englishman had "delivered on all aspects."
"MLS wouldn`t be what it is today if David didn`t decide to come and play in Major League Soccer. All of us appreciate everything that he has done," Garber said.
There can be no doubt Beckham`s time in MLS has boosted the league`s profile internationally and domestically and although that has not translated into a massive upturn in attendances and television ratings, his celebrity has helped build momentum.
MLS still does not offer salaries that are competitive with the main leagues in Europe and South America but Beckham has played his part in progress.
Whether or not Beckham remains in the U.S. as a player for another season remains to be seen although there is a strong likelihood he will remain involved in some form.
The midfielder has an option to own a future MLS franchise and whenever he has been asked he has stated he intends to utilize it.