David Beckham at a press conference at the Parc des Princes stadium, Paris, January 31, 2013, announcing he joined Paris Saint-Germain football club. (Image credit: AFP/Getty Images via @daylife)
“It has never been about the biggest contract or the money,” said David Beckham in his press conference today announcing his five-month deal to join Paris Saint-Germain of the French Ligue 1.
“It’s always been about playing football. I’ve been lucky to achieve what I’ve achieved and earned what I’ve earned.”
The 37-year old highest paid soccer player in the world’s most popular sport put his money where his mouth is. The “huge sum” Beckham confirmed he would earn — estimated at €800,000 ($1 million) a month, nearly double his salary at his previous club, the Los Angeles Galaxy — will all be donated to a yet-to-be-named Parisien children’s charity.
It’s a move in line with Beckham’s (and his wife, Victoria’s) philanthropic efforts. As a UNICEF ambassador since 1999, he has championed such childhood causes as malnutrition, domestic abuse and trafficking among others. The power couple also operates a charity to provide wheelchairs to disabled youth.
Additionally it’s a move that shields Beckham, who plans to stay in a hotel and whose family will stay in London, from France’s exorbitant income tax rates. It’s a luxury a man who will continue to make upwards of $37 million from endorsements from the likes of Adidas, Samsung, H&M, Burger King and Sainsbury can afford.
By all indications though, it was a goodwill gesture decided upon by both Becks and Nasser al-Khelaifi, president of PSG which has been majority owned by the Qatar Sport Investment of the government-backed, oil-rich Qatar Investment Authority since 2011.
“He’s a very proficient player and I’m sure he will add big volume to the club,” said al-Khelafi as he thanked Beckham for being part of the club’s big project.
That project is to elevate PSG and Ligue 1 to that of the European elite like Spain’s La Liga and England’s Premier League, both former homes of Beckham. PSG has gotten off to a good start, shelling out over $300 million since 2011 for players like Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the league’s current top scorer, and Brazil defender Thiago Silva from Milan.
The results to date have been positive. The team is currently atop Ligue 1′s standings and is a favorite to capture the league’s top honors this year, which would be a first for the club in two decades. Ibrahimovic has been credited for boosting higher television rights fees from foreign partners.
Brand Beckham, rather than Beckham’s foot, is expected to further fuel growth. After all, he has a proven track record.
During Beckham’s six years in Major League Soccer, the last two in which he won the league championship with the Galaxy, average attendance climbed each year. Part of this was due to the increase in the number of franchises (7), although MLS executives said that was possible due to the exposure Becks brought to their league. Last season, average attendance (18,800) eclipsed averages in the NBA (17,375) and the NHL (17,450). Additionally, television rights were sold to more than 100 countries.
Prior to his jaunt in LA, in the two years after Beckham joined Real Madrid in 2003, the Spanish team’s sponsorship and advertising income more than doubled while jersey sales and other merchandising jumped 62 percent.
In anticipation, PSG reportedly is already contemplating increasing its pre-order of No. 32 Beckham jerseys, with early estimates that the team has already under-ordered. This may prove a windfall. As with previous contracts, Beckham is expected to earn a portion of his jersey sales in the form of a bonus, separate from his salary.
While it seems Becks only has a small window of opportunity to have any effect on the team — his five-month contract only runs through the end of the current season — he eluded to having an option similar to the one he has with MLS (he remains an ambassador for the league, has been linked to recruiting European players to it, and presumably still has an option to invest in a team).
“I might have only signed the contract until end of season, but I consider to see myself part of the club in the future,” he said. “I want to help the French league to grow and help this club become one of the biggest powerhouses in football.”
In the near-term though, he wants to contribute any way possible. While he says he still feels like he runs around like his former 21-year old self — and with self-depricating humor says he has no change in pace because he never had it — he admits he doesn’t expect to be part of the starting 11.
That said, he will be the oldest player in the league and he’s unsure of his playing future beyond this one.
“I don’t know if it will be my last contract. I’ll see how I feel at the end of the season. I want to continue to play for as long as possible.