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Right time for LA Galaxy to cash in on Beckham

EDITORIAL: What odds that it will be David Beckham still wearing Rossoneri colours - and not Ronaldinho - next season? Beckham's success at AC Milan in this last month has been a great triumph - and tribute - to the England midfielder.

For all but his final six months at Real Madrid, Beckham suffered in comparison to Barcelona's talisman, Ronaldinho. It was Barca, the club's supporters in the media would claim, that had avoided embarrassment after president Joan Laporta failed to sign Beckham ahead of Real and instead landed the then PSG attacker.

But fast forward to today and it's Beckham, not Ronaldinho, who is regarded as an icon in Spain for the manner of his Real departure. And while the Brazilian is struggling to get off the Milan bench, Beckham, with barely a week's fitness training in Dubai under his belt, has been a first-choice for coach Carlo Ancelotti since the resumption of the Serie A season.

What you see is what you get from Beckham. His incredible stamina, free-kick and crossing ability all have come from pure hard-work on the training pitch. He was never blessed with great pace or acceleration, but what he does have - and has shown over and over again - is determination. It's that determination which has convinced the most cynical inside the Milan dressing room to speak out publicly about holding onto the former England captain.

The wrangling over Milan's push to sign Beckham permanently has become ugly. And there must be sympathy for Galaxy for the way they've tried to accommodate Beckham at every turn. Not only his loan move to Milan, but for the past two seasons with his commitments to England. Galaxy management have never blocked Beckham from playing for his country - even in friendly action - despite it meaning he'd miss MLS games.

But now the time is right for Galaxy to cash in.

Galaxy supporters have had enough of the saga and you really wonder what sort of reception Beckham will receive from MLS fans in general should he be forced to return for the new season.

In Beckham, MLS and Galaxy have proved they're a major player in the game. They've done it once and using the money raised from his sale to the Rossoneri, LA are capable of shocking football's traditionalists again.

Convincing Raul, the Real Madrid captain, to close his career in Los Angeles, or dealing in the Chelsea striker, Didier Drogba, would again shatter football's glass ceiling. While neither could compete commercially with Beckham, the global impact of pulling off such a coup would more than make up for the loss of the former Manchester United midfielder.

A deal for either Raul or Drogba would have to wait until season 2010. However, with the cash raised from Beckham's sale, LA could immediately go into the market for a player of the ilk of Juventus midfielder Pavel Nedved or Valencia's centre-forward Fernando Morientes, and be confident of making strong inroads into America's soccer following public - particularly the Latino population with Morientes.

The sale of Beckham is no setback for MLS. Indeed, it should be seen as major selling point to prospective new signings. The smooth transition from MLS to Serie A football is not due to Beckham alone. Just as Ryan Nelsen at Blackburn Rovers and Tim Howard, first with Manchester United and now with Everton, have proved, MLS is capable of producing and maintaining great talent.

Roy Hodgson, the Fulham manager, is no mug. He was clearly upset when Chicago Fire dug in their heels last month over Brian McBride. Hodgson was convinced the veteran centre-forward could have done a job - immediately - for his team.

That's what Beckham's success at Milan has brought MLS. Forget what the tired ex-players are saying in the British press, they're not making decisions on American players. That's for football people like Hodgson, Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes - all great supporters of American soccer and the players the system is producing.

The Beckham 'experiment' has been a global success for MLS and LA Galaxy. The final step is to smoothly negotiate a big fee with Milan and to go out into the market and do it all again.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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