STEVE INSKEEP, host:
All good things end, apparently even the love affair between Los Angeles and David Beckham. The soccer star signed a lucrative five year contract with the L.A. Galaxy just a couple of years ago. That placed him and his wife Victoria, also known as Posh Spice, in the center of the Hollywood scene. Now Beckham wants to break that contract and play full time in Italy for one of Europe's the best teams.
Rob Schmitz of member station KQED reports on how it's likely to end.
(Soundbite of music)
ROB SCHMITZ: At the ceremony welcoming David Beckham to the L.A. Galaxy in early 2007, the U.S. economy looked strong, and landing the most famous sports star in the world for this virtually unknown team seemed about as reasonable as buying a million dollar home on a five figure salary.
At the time Beckham seemed to acknowledge the pressure.
Mr. DAVID BECKHAM (Professional Soccer Player): I haven't really thought about it too much, because I'm sure if I really actually sat down and thought about the expectations, about the pressure that's actually on me as a person, as a player in the U.S., maybe it might get to me.
SCHMITZ: Whether it got to him or not, a dose of reality has hit the L.A. Galaxy like a bending ball of a free kick sailing past a stupefied goalkeeper: Beckham wants out - a mere two years into his five-year contract.
(Soundbite of shouting)
SCHMITZ: At a training session last week, Beckham's teammates seemed oblivious to the controversy. L.A. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena wasn't. He was annoyed at the mere question of Beckham leaving the team. Beckham's been on loan to AC Milan in the off-season, and the top European club has since negotiated to keep him until the end of its season in July. All Bruce Arena would acknowledge were the obvious differences between the L.A. Galaxy and the world class Milan team.
Mr. BRUCE ARENA (Coach, L.A. Galaxy): They've got the world player of the year, Kaka. They had the former world player of the year, Ronaldinho. I mean, there's some players there. AC Milan's one of the great football clubs in the world.
SCHMITZ: The L.A. Galaxy on the other hand had the worst record last year in Major League Soccer. Despite that, Graham Jones of the L.A. Times says the team has already gotten more than its money's worth from Beckham.
Mr. GRAHAM JONES (Los Angeles Times): He's put a lot of people into seats, but he has sold a lot of jerseys across this country. The last figure I saw was 600,000 jerseys in just the 18 months he's been here.
SCHMITZ: But wait a second. All this talk about David Beckham: what about his very significant other?
(Soundbite of song, "Wannabe")
SPICE GIRLS (Music Group): (Singing) Yo, I'll tell you what I want, what I really, really want.
SCHMITZ: Apologies for not mentioning her sooner. Victoria Beckham, formerly Posh Spice of the '90s pop group the Spice Girls, will be sorely missed by many, especially Tinsel Town's paparazzi.
Brandy Navarre is vice president of X17.
Ms. BRANDY NAVARRE (X17): It's kind of been a win-win situation. We love to get pictures of them, they love to be photographed, and everyone's happy.
SCHMITZ: But as it turns out, many Galaxy fans are happy to see them go.
Mr. JASON CROSSON (Fan): The circus is over and it's leaving town, hopefully.
SCHMITZ: Galaxy fan Jason Crosson says Beckham's $32 million salary has sucked money away from other players, some of whom make as little as $15,000 a year. When Crosson hears the rumor that the Galaxy's been talking to the agent for Brazilian superstar Ronaldo to replace Beckham, he laughs out loud.
Mr. CROSSON: Give me some young guns from South America who doesn't have a big name, who are hungry and want to fight for it. I honestly don't think MLS needs superstars.
SCHMITZ: And at least for Beckham, it's clear this superstar no longer needs the MLS. As part of AC Milan's deal with the Galaxy, Beckham will stay in Milan until July, when he'll return to L.A. to finish up the Galaxy's season. Just so there's no hard feelings, AC Milan has also agreed to play a friendly match against the Galaxy July 19th. In November, Beckham will have the option to buy out the final two years of his contract with Los Angeles.
For NPR News, I'm Rob Schmitz in Los Angeles.
INSKEEP: Don't worry. Don't worry. We'll be covering serious news seconds from now. And in the meantime, you can take a look at David Beckham's soccer, fashion and hair highlights by going to our Web site, npr.org.
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