Soccer's Beckham to Join L.A. Team British soccer star David Beckham has signed a deal to join the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer squad in California. How will Beckham's move affect his career as an athlete and a celebrity?

Soccer's Beckham to Join L.A. Team

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Alex Chadwick.

LUKE BURBANK, host:

And I'm Luke Burbank.

Hold on to your hats. American fans of soccer and fans of hot guys, David Beckham is coming to the U.S.

(Soundbite of broadcast)

Unidentified Man (Sportscaster): David Beckham runs up. He shoots. It's Beckham! Goal!

BURBANK: That's right. Famous British soccer player David Beckham is coming to Southern California to play for the MLS team the Los Angeles Galaxy. I called Gavin Hamilton in London. He's the editor of World Soccer magazine. And I asked him if British fans are reeling with shock and disappointment that their man Beckham won't be returning to England, now that his time with the Spanish club Real Madrid is up.

Mr. GAVIN HAMILTON (Editor, World Soccer Magazine): I think people were sort of expecting it. I mean Beckham has had a - people have had a detached relationship with Beckham for some time now because he's been in Spain for the last three and a half years. He's not been part of the English national team since the World Cup last summer. So it hasn't sent shock waves through English football. But it's still a surprise, I think, that things moved so quickly in the last couple of days.

BURBANK: He's 31 years old. He's been playing for Real Madrid recently. Is he any good anymore?

Mr. HAMILTON: Well, I think he's still got capabilities and still can make a contribution to lots of teams. I think the problem is that since the World Cup, his career has really taken a downhill turn, because at the World Cup, you know, that was supposed to be the pinnacle of his career. He's supposed to lead England's glory of the World Cup, and it obviously didn't work out that way.

And since then, he's had lots of problems with Real Madrid with the coach, Fabio Capello, who's a new coach there, and hasn't rated Beckham, hasn't seen him as part of his plans and has left him on the substitutes bench for the rest of the time. So that's left Beckham very frustrated. His big problem has always been he's not particularly a fast player. He's not particularly quick. In European football nowadays speed is everything. And Beckham has never had speed.

What he has is a tremendous skill from what we call dead-ball situations, from free kicks, corner kicks. He can deliver a ball from a standing-still position and that has always been his greatest skill.

BURBANK: Well, and even a, you know, maybe a David Beckham who's a step slower or maybe not the toast of the European leagues, he's definitely going to be one of the better players in the MLS, which is kind of considered to have a lower level of play. And they're paying him, I just read, 250 - I didn't know the whole budget for the MLS was $250 million.

Mr. HAMILTON: It's an extraordinary amount of money. I suspect a lot of it is to do with image rights. It's not a straight salary. I suspect it's to do with image rights and it's linked with his soccer academies, which is the thing that he's really outlined as what he will do when he retires as a player. And that's been, I think, his ambition, is to develop these soccer academies around the world. So I suspect the deal is linked to those.

BURBANK: It's interesting you say image, because David Beckham is a celebrity and an icon as much as he is a soccer player. I mean there's a big sign here that says Hollywood, and I have a feeling when he's playing he'll have one eye on that sign.

Mr. HAMILTON: Yes. You suspect he wouldn't have been so tempted to join Colorado or Dallas or some of the other teams in MLS. I think Los Angeles is a big attraction. Not necessarily for him, but certainly for his wife, who has ambitions in the entertainment industry.

BURBANK: His wife being Victoria Beckham, also known as Posh Spice, a former member of the Spice Girls.

Mr. HAMILTON: That's right. I mean she was - she was - when they met she was the famous half of the - more famous half of the duo. But his fame sort of eclipsed her during their marriage. And she's really struggled to sort of find a career for herself since she left the Spice Girls. But I think she's, you know, she sees herself as an A-list celebrity. And I think Hollywood is the place that she would like to be, and I think that's why the move makes sense in many ways.

BURBANK: That was Gavin Hamilton in London from World Soccer magazine.

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