Column: Beckham brings ‘wow’ factor to Paris

At Paris Saint-Germain, David Beckham may again prove that there

is still some good football in his 37-year-old legs. If not, no

matter, because in Paris he’s chosen a city where simply looking

fabulous is enough to turn heads and make people go ”Wow!” And

Beckham is a master at that.

PSG doesn’t need Beckham to tear up and down the pitch week-in,

week-out, delivering pinpoint crosses, as he did many moons and

tattoos ago at Manchester United, the club that first made him a

star.

It needs to associate its name and logo with brand Beckham so

that more people from Anchorage to Zhuhai start to remember what

the initials ”PSG” actually stand for. It needs his ability to

glue eyeballs to television screens. It needs him for the same

reason fashion lovers drool over Parisian couture: to stand out

from the hoi-polloi.

PSG’s slogan is ”Dream Bigger” – an ambition made possible by

the Qatari owners who bought the club in 2011 and brought rivers of

investment. They want to make PSG one of the glamor clubs of

Europe, mentioned in the same breath as a Real Madrid or a Bayern

Munich, not merely be big fish in the comparatively small pond of

French football. PSG beating the likes of Troyes or Evian in the

French league will never be big news in Hong Kong or Houston. But

the brief fling between Paris, capital of chic, and Beckham, king

of football chic, will be. In this way, the two should fit like a

princess’ slippers.

Beckham in a PSG jersey might not make much football sense. Two

of Beckham’s potential partners in the PSG midfield, Lucas from

Brazil and the exciting Italian Marco Verratti, are pratically

young enough to be Beckham’s kids. At age 20, they represent PSG’s

playing future. Beckham, at 37, does not.

The brevity of Beckham’s contract – five months – and the fact

that his wife, Victoria, and their children will stay in London

suggested this is more of a cameo role than a serious sporting one

for Beckham and that PSG signed him more for the splash than to

plug any weakness in its team.

Ryan Giggs, Beckham’s former teammate at Manchester United, is

still putting in useful shifts for that team at the even riper age

of 39. Beckham will be closely scrutinized to see how he re-adapts

to European football after six years of Major League Soccer with

the Los Angeles Galaxy. It seems highly unlikely that Beckham could

cope with playing every match for PSG, but he is sure to get some

minutes.

None of which is meant disrespectfully. He looked amazing at his

standing-room-only press call Thursday at PSG’s Parc des Princes

stadium, every inch sporting royalty in a sober suit and magazine

hair, twiddling an expensive-looking pen.

The saucy journalist who called him the league’s new

”grand-papa” couldn’t ruffle him. Beckham gets full marks for the

way he has looked after himself, kept his competitive juices

flowing and is squeezing every last drop out of his football talent

before he retires.

”I still feel 21 years old most days,” he said.

PSG’s recruitment last July of star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic

and now Beckham is reminiscent of the ”Galaticos” policy Real

Madrid employed last decade to add zip and glitter to its brand.

Beckham was one of those stars, and PSG is now paying for that same

luster. Beckham’s pledge to donate his salary to a children’s

charity made him and the club look good, by seeming to put some

distance between them and football’s money-is-everything

mentality.

But as Paris fashion victims would tell you, buying expensive

things is one thing, getting them to fit together into a stunning

outfit is quite another. PSG’s expensively assembled players have

struggled at times to play as a team, especially when the

headstrong Ibrahimovic is in one of his moods where he seems to do

only what pleases him.

Beckham on Thursday named-dropped stars he has played with and

championships he has won. It may be that he can use that clout in

the PSG dressing room, to get his new teammates to work better

together.

”I have a lot of experience in the game,” he noted. ”I can

still run around, I can still play as I did when I was 21 years

old. I have not lost any of my pace because, to be honest, I

haven’t had a lot of pace throughout my career.”

On-field contributions Beckham makes will be a bonus. The big

thing for PSG is simply that he is here, looking great in a city

that has elevated that to an art. Their wealth allows PSG’s owners

to treat themselves and their grateful fans to la creme of

football: one of the sport’s best coaches in Ancelotti, one of the

best strikers in the towering shape of Ibrahimovic and now an icon,

Beckham. He gives them bragging rights over other status-conscious

members of the Qatari elite.

If Ibrahimovic is PSG’s sports car, the player whose goals will

help the team get places, then Beckham is the rare vintage

automobile to be shown off but not driven wildly so his aging parts

don’t overheat. He is an image-enhancer for PSG and Qatar, the Gulf

emirate pouring billions into sport to win friends and influence

and to provide future revenue when its gas and oil reserves are

pumped dry.

In short, a big reason Beckham is in Paris is because PSG wants

people like me to write this article and people like you to read

it.

Are we really that easy to influence? Answer: Because of

Beckham, I’m betting that if you didn’t know already, you can now

say what the ”P” in PSG stands for.

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John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The

Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at)ap.org or follow

him at twitter.com/johnleicester