January 2007 will be remembered as another month where the United States of America reminded everyone around the globe that it was the cultural leader of the world yet again.
Tech titans Apple changed the global communication landscape forever with the announcement of their new product – the ‘iPhone’, while it was a clean sweep for a number of American superstars at the 64th annual Golden Globes.
What is often forgotten is that January 2007 marks the first time in a long time that the United States took their seat at the table of world football alongside Europe’s big-hitters.
United’s iconic number seven, and Real Madrid’s 23, announced he would be joining the LA Galaxy come the end of that season on a five-year deal worth a reported £128million.
‘Goldenballs’ swapped the Santiago Bernabeu for the City of Angels and barely looked back, while shifting the attitude towards ‘soccer’ in the states more than surely even he could have ever predicted.
Beckham was not the first Brit to try his hand at the sport on the other side of the Atlantic, in fact he was not even the first United legend to do so given George Best appeared 55 times for the Los Angeles Aztecs over a two-year period in the 70’s.
What the arrival of someone of Beckham’s stature did do was revive what was undeniably a dying sport Stateside.
Prior to Beckham’s arrival, ‘the Galaxy’ were averaging around 20,000 spectators per game, 330,000 over the course of an entire campaign.
Add the footballer-turned-actor-turned model that is Beckham into the mix and fans flocked in their droves causing those figures to rise to 26,000 and 390,000 respectively.
Just six leagues the world over boast a higher average attendance than the MLS nowadays meaning Beckham’s impact is still being felt.
According to one of Beckham’s former managers in Bruce Arena, now of the New England Revolution, his impact will continue to be felt for decades to come.
“The signing of David probably kept MLS around forever,” Arena claimed.
“He gave us global attention. The investment in the league is tremendous. We’re moving forward in every area.”
As Beckham himself revealed, that was exactly the plan.
“With me, it’s about football,” he said. “I’m coming there to make a difference. I’m coming there to play football.
“I’m not saying me coming over to the States is going to make soccer the biggest sport in America. That would be difficult to achieve.
“Baseball, basketball, American football, they’ve been around. But I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think I could make a difference.”
The former England captain made quite the difference and was in many ways a pioneer for the swathes of Premier League talent that would duly follow him stateside in the years to come.
Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard – the names read like a who’s who of the English football elite, all three enjoying short stints with three different MLS outfits.
A decade-and-a-half on and football fans would be hard pushed to find a world class talent from the noughties that didn’t spend some time plying their trade in the ‘land of the free’.
Beckham is thought to have actually played a crucial part in luring the Swede to LA after taking the former Inter Milan striker to dinner in Beverley Hills alongside Galaxy technical director Jovan Kirovski.
After sharing a dressing room together at Paris Saint-Germain, Ibrahimovic revealed Beckham recommended he experience football in America before he hangs up his boots.
“I met David when I played in PSG and he talked a lot about Galaxy, the experience he had in America, he was all positive,” Ibrahimovic said in an interview with the MLS website.
“He was like: ‘You should come over, go over, and try it out, play there’.
“He said everything is fantastic, it’s in progress, but to be part of it is something amazing and something he was proud of.”
Beckham’s time in the MLS was at times interrupted by injuries but not bereft of the kind of spectacular set-pieces that have become his trademark over the course of his career.
Two MLS Cups and three Western Conference play-off wins ensures the American chapter of Beckham’s career is as littered with honours as all the others.
One clause in Beckham’s playing contract with the Galaxy would go on to create MLS history more than a decade later when he become the owner and founder of new franchise club Inter Miami.
A provision of his contract allowed him the option of buying an MLS expansion franchise in any market except New York City at the fixed price of $25m whenever he stopped playing in the league.
He duly activated this clause 12 years after he first penned the original deal with Galaxy, though Inter Miami’s start was anything but easy.
Covid-19 scuppered their debut season, which came six years after Beckham’s consortium announcing ownership of the Miami-based franchise in February 2014.
The bulk of the delays surrounding their start was trying to find the right land for a custom-built stadium, a delay that took so long Beckham’s team very nearly pulled out of the deal entirely.
After years in the making, Inter Miami finally played their first game in March 2020 and finished last season eleventh in the Eastern Conference.
Beckham faced accusations of favouritism when he appointed former United and England teammate Phil Neville as manager, but was quick to downplay that kind of talk.
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“I’ve known him since I was 15, 16 years old, from a young kid. I knew what he was like as a player, I know what he’s like as a human being, I know what his work ethic is like,” he explained.
“Him and his brother Gary, I’ve never seen two players work as hard at their game in my whole career. So to actually have someone like that come into this club – of course, people are always going to turn around and say, ‘oh, it’s because he’s your friend’ – it’s nothing to do with him being my friend.”
While the club are yet to sign anyone of a similar star power to Beckham’s when he first arrived, fans in Miami are hopeful that ‘Brand Beckham’ can bring good times to the east coast much like he did on the westside in Los Angeles all those years ago.