PARIS — David Beckham has won league championships in three countries on two continents, earns millions of dollars in endorsements and his name is practically synonymous with celebrity itself. He has his own cologne, for goodness sake. So why is he even bothering to sit on the bench for the Paris Saint-Germain football club?
His royal highness of football doesn’t need the money — and he’s said he’ll donate his PSG salary to charity — but he does need to start thinking about life after the game. At 37, Beckham is practically a dinosaur for the sport, and he acknowledged in his welcoming press conference on Thursday that he probably won’t be in the team’s starting lineup.
Instead, Beckham may be beginning to put in place a plan for life after the final whistle. Ellis Cashmore, a sociologist who writes about sports and media culture at Staffordshire University, said that prolonged exposure is always useful to celebrities building empires. In that way, the deal with PSG does double work: It keeps his name in lights for longer and also garners extra attention for the charitable contribution.
“When he does stop playing, which is going to be quite soon, his overall brand appeal will inevitably decline because we will inevitably forget about this guy,” he said. “I think he’s probably thinking, I want to stay in the shop window for a bit longer.”
But Cashmore also cautioned against being too cynical in assessing Beckham’s motives: “The guy is an athlete. He wants to do what he loves to do.”
Bruno Satin, an independent players’ agent who was with IMG for a decade, also said that the move to PSG — even if it’s to sit on the bench — is a step up for Beckham.
“For him, to be on the PSG team, it’s a higher level than being on the Los Angeles Galaxy,” he said. “For the world of football, for real football, the Los Angeles Galaxy is nothing on the map of football.”