David Beckham put family before fortune Wednesday, deciding to leave a few million dollars in Europe to stay with the Galaxy through 2013.
Details of the new two-year deal were not released, but published reports valued it at $15 million — below the 18-month, $18.7-million deal the deep-pocketed Qatari owners of French club Paris-St. Germain wanted to give him. Beckham was also said to have received lucrative offers to return home to play in England, but he turned those down as well when his wife and four children made it clear they wanted to stay in Southern California.
“This was an important decision for me,” Beckham said in a Galaxy news release. “My family and I are incredibly happy and settled in America.”
That was a mantra for Beckham in the run-up to the Galaxy’s MLS championship in November. But few believed the Galaxy, which finished last season in the red, would come up with enough money to make him stay.
Turns out it didn’t have to.
“My No. 1 priority always is my family and are they happy,” Beckham said last fall. “We love living here. We’ve loved living here for five years.”
Which isn’t to say Beckham will be playing for free. The $7.5 million he’ll receive in each of the next two seasons is an MLS record. And the deal also includes an option for Beckham and Simon Fuller, his longtime business manager, to buy a future MLS expansion franchise at a discount.
The Galaxy will also allow Beckham to leave the team this summer to play for Britain in the London Olympics, an event he played a major role in bringing to his hometown.
More important to his decision, however, was the fact that, by re-signing with the Galaxy, Beckham and his pop-star wife, Victoria, wouldn’t have to uproot their family, which lives on a Beverly Hills street where it counts Tom Cruise, Jay Leno and Mark Wahlberg among its neighbors. His eldest son, 12-year-old Brooklyn, plays for the Galaxy’s U-13 academy team, and Beckham has suggested the family is so comfortable here it may someday seek U.S. citizenship.
“I’ve loved it from day one,” he said.
Uncertainty about the return of Beckham, whose five-year, $32.5-million contract ran out Dec. 31, led the Galaxy to explore other options, including the Chelsea duo of Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba. Both are younger and arguably more useful than Beckham, who turns 37 in May. But neither has the international cachet of Beckham, who has turned the Galaxy and MLS into global brands.
“There has been much speculation in the past four months on where David was going to play. We did not get caught up in this and remained focused on re-signing him,” Tim Leiweke, president and chief executive of entertainment giant AEG, the Galaxy’s parent company, said in a release. “David had many options and we are pleased he felt comfortable not only with our organization but also with Los Angeles.”
Beckham’s stay with the Galaxy hasn’t always been a smooth one, but he made up for many of those bumps last year when he played in an MLS career-high 26 games and recorded 15 assists — not including one that set up the only goal in the team’s 1-0 win over Houston in the MLS Cup. That capped Beckham’s best season in MLS, and he claimed a national title in a third country — the MLS crown joining championships won previously with Manchester United and Madrid — while winning comeback player of the year honors as well as a place on the league’s postseason Best XI.
Beckham celebrated his new deal Tuesday night with Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena and assistants Dave Sarachan and Curt Onalfo at Cut, Wolfgang Puck’s trendy steakhouse in Beverly Hills. Beckham can’t go out in London — or Paris, for that matter —- without being hounded by paparazzi, but on this night he wasn’t even the biggest name in the dining room since Cruise was having dinner a few tables away.
“Living in California is something special,” Beckham has said. “There’s been moments we’ve sat back as a family and looked at how lucky we are.”