The torrid love affair between Los Angeles and David Beckham is on the rocks.
Soccer's superstar and international man of mystery signed a lucrative contract with the L.A. Galaxy a year and a half ago, placing himself and wife Victoria, aka Posh Spice, in the center of the Hollywood scene. He's since been led astray, skipping out on much of the Galaxy's upcoming season to play in Italy for one of the best teams in Europe.
When Beckham joined the Galaxy in early 2007, the U.S. economy looked strong, and landing the world's most famous sports star for a virtually unknown team seemed about as reasonable as buying a million-dollar home on a five-figure salary.
But now a dose of reality has hit the Galaxy like a bending ball on a free kick sailing past a stupefied goalkeeper: Beckham wants out — not even two years into his five-year contract.
He's spent the off-season playing for AC Milan, and Italy appears to have worked its charms on him. The top European club has since negotiated to keep him until the end of its season before he returns to L.A. in July.
Beckham's presence in Los Angeles has contributed no small bit to the local soccer economy. The L.A. Galaxy had the worst record in Major League Soccer, but Beckham has drawn a lot of attention — as well as fans and money — to the struggling team.
And, of course, Posh draws her own crowd. One celebrity-photo agency said it had three photographers assigned to shoot the couple at any time.
"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," says Brandy Navarre, vice president of X17.
But as it turns out, many Galaxy fans would be happy to see them go.
"The circus is over and it's leaving town, hopefully," says Galaxy fan Jason Crosson. He says Beckham's $32 million salary has sucked money away from other players and that the MLS doesn't need superstars.
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 Los Angeles to finish up the Galaxy's season. Just so there are no hard feelings, AC Milan has also agreed to play a friendly match against the Galaxy on July 19. In November, Beckham will have the option to buy out the final two years of his contract with Los Angeles.
Rob Schmitz reports for member station KQED.