CARSON, Calif. – Add yet another title to the every-expanding resume of the David Beckham: recruiter.
Even before the former English international midfielder played his final game for the L.A. Galaxy on Saturday, there was speculation as to which soccer superstar would replace him in Major League Soccer.
Regardless of who it will be, Beckham will be a tough act to follow, given his world-wide celebrity and ability to attract crowds.
Still trying to convince players of high stature to join the league, don’t be surprised if players from Spain’s La Liga, England’s Premier League, and Italy’s Serie A find their way to MLS.
“Just because I’m not playing here anymore after the weekend, my commitment stays the same,” Beckham said.
“And I will do anything to keep these players coming over like Robbie Keane, like Thierry Henry...Because I want to see this league continue to grow. I think and I know it’s the number one sport in the world. I believe that it can compete with basketball, I believe it can compete with American football and baseball."
The name of Brazilian midfielder Kaka came up as a possible replacement even before the Galaxy defeated the Houston Dynamo 3-1, in the MLS Cup on Saturday.
"I think most clubs would like to have him come into their team," Beckham said. "He's obviously a great talent, a great person, a hard worker. He's one of the most professional players that I've ever come up against that I’ve played with. So, of course, if there was any slight chance of bringing him to the Galaxy, I'm sure the owners would do anything possible.”
I want to see this league continue to grow. I think and I know it’s the number one sport in the world. I believe that it can compete with basketball, I believe it can compete with American football and baseball.
While Beckham was not directly involved with any of the Galaxy goals, he did play a solid and forceful game, setting up several teammates. He created a fabulous opportunity with the match only 13 minutes old, when he found Robbie Keane on the left flank. The Irish international raced toward the Houston goal before finding an open Landon Donovan on the right side. Donovan, however, somehow just missed the right near post. It looked like Donovan had to go out of his way to miss his shot.
MLS gave Beckham a unique hat-trick as he has won the league’s title in his final game with the Galaxy. He also accomplished the feat with Manchester United and Real Madrid.
"It never gets old," Beckham said. “I'm 37 and I've been able to play in finals and championship games. I still love it like I did my first."
Beckham was brought to the Galaxy and MLS to help expand the fan base beyond the die-hard soccer devotees. After six years in a Galaxy uniform, he certainly has done it, becoming a household name.
MLS commissioner Don Garber said that Beckham came to the U.S. to help the sport grow and make the league more popular here and abroad.
"I do not think that anybody would doubt that he has over delivered on every one of those measures," he said. "There is arguably not a soccer fan on this planet that does not know the L.A. Galaxy and Major League Soccer. David played a significant role in helping us make that happen."
Asked about his impact, Beckham was ever-so-humble.
"I just hope I brought more interest to the game because I think that was why I decided to come here," he said. "I kind of raised a little bit of interest. If that's the single thing that I've done, then great. But I think the foundations are there now in this year. It's a 17-year-old league. And the foundations are great. It will continue to grow."
The 37-year-old Beckham decided to leave the Galaxy for what he has called one last challenge. There are reports he wants to play with a high-profile European team that is involved in the UEFA Champions League, which narrows the list down considerably.
“It could be a really nice way to bow out, but I do believe I’ve still got another challenge inside me," he said. " I don’t know how many years left but I do feel like I can still play."