David Beckham, the English footballer and global branding phenomenon, has chosen Paris Saint-Germain as his next destination, underscoring the Qatar-owned club’s determination to break into Europe’s elite.
Beckham said he would not take a salary during his time in Paris, but would instead give his earnings to a children’s charity based in the city.
The move by the former England captain, famously described by his wife Victoria as “golden balls” because of his popularity, also reflects Qatar’s ambition to boost the international appeal of French football after the emirate’s Al Jazeera broadcasting arm acquired television rights for many of France’s top domestic games.
The five-month deal comes a year after Beckham ended a previous flirtation with PSG, the city’s leading club, deciding instead to spend another season in California at LA Galaxy.
His eventual arrival is a marketing coup for Nasser al-Khelaïfi, the Qatari president of PSG and head of the Qatar-owned BeIn sports television channel in France, with “brand Beckham” particularly powerful among Asian consumers.
However, there were questions from fans and French sports commentators about whether a 37-year-old at the end of his career would have much to contribute to a football team assembled at huge expense.
A snap poll on the website of Le Parisien, a popular newspaper, showed 58 per cent of respondents thought his arrival was not good news for the club.
PSG has spent more than €250m in transfers since Qatar Sports Investment, an investment arm of the emirate’s sovereign wealth fund, bought the club in June 2011 – outstripping any other European club during the period.
That included a three-year deal with Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who transferred from AC Milan in July for a reported fee of €20m. PSG officials hope that Beckham’s ability to pass the ball over long distances with great accuracy will complement Ibrahimovic, a skilful target man and prolific goal scorer.
At a Paris press conference to announce Beckham’s arrival, Mr al-Khelaïfi said: “He had a lot of offers so we are very lucky to have him here. I’m sure he will add big value to the club.”
Beckham said his wife, a clothes designer and former pop star, would stay in London with the couple’s four children.
His mooted arrival at the beginning of 2012 met with a wave of opprobrium from French Socialist politicians because of his expected pay package. He has won 13 league championships with Manchester United in England, Real Madrid in Spain and LA Galaxy.