Beckham Loan Extended??

Ibecks2n a fairly remarkable twist, the L.A. Times is reporting that the David Beckham saga is finally nearing its end.  According to Grahame L. Jones, MLS has agreed to extend Beckham’s loan through the end of the Serie A season (end of May).  Once the July transfer window opens on July 15, Beckham will rejoin the Galaxy for the rest of the season.  According to Jones, Beckham will then exercise his opt-out clause, paying the Galaxy to release him from contract by the end of 2009.  Remarkably, the deal is supposedly for more than the $10 million AC Milan previously rejected.

From the League’s perspective, Beckham can be trotted out one more time to half of the League’s cities.  Because L.A. has a travel heavy summer, Beckham should still visit New York, New England, D.C., Columbus, Kansas City, Chicago and Houston. These visits will allow the League to pad attendance one more time on Beckham’s back.  Moreover, because Beckham’s salary is pro-rated, the Galaxy can bring in additional talent to improve the squad.

This move certainly seems strange.  AC Milan is seemingly out of the title chase and has little reason (on the field) to keep Beckham for the season.  He will be available in January, 2010 as a total free agent.  From Beckham’s perspective, this deal will cost him money, but he is probably hoping it buys some good will.  He will likely try to couch this as “the best of both worlds” and the last shot he wanted to bring the Galaxy to the promised land.  The fans will decide, but I suspect Beckham will face some harsh words upon his return.galaxy

MLS Contracts: Who owns David Beckham?

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If there is one thing the David Beckham situation has made abundantly clear, it’s that MLS does things differently.  During the negotiations with Milan, I’ve been repeatedly asked to explain the MLS contract system. In the traditional soccer model, players are owned by individual teams and transferred (i.e. sold)  when two clubs (and the subject player) agree.  Not so in MLS.

MLS operates as a “single entity” where teams are controlled by the League.  While the level of central control has lessened over the years, player contracts are still owned by Major League Soccer.  Thus, despite playing for the L.A.  Galaxy, Beckham’s contract is owned by the League.  Thus, to negotiate a transfer, both clubs, the player and MLS need to agree.

This obviously creates some conflicts.  Undoubtedly, David Beckham has enormously increased awareness of MLS worldwide.  Selling him now may not be in the best interest of the League and its owners, but very well might be in the best interest of the Galaxy on the field.  As of this writing, no deal has been done.  Galaxy owners AEG, have taken the party line with AEG President Tim Lewike stating, “I’m not sure they ever quite understood the magnitude of the losses the Galaxy and the league would have had to bear this season. They were very respectful discussions. We’re fine. There’s no issues here.”

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However, Lewike heads the business and not the soccer arm of AEG.  MLS teams are held to a tight salary cap, and head coach Bruce Arena would likely much prefer to dump Beckham and use the funds freed up under the salary cap, and transfer funds, to build a contender.  Instead, he may be left with an unhappy Beckham and another losing team.