SO MUCH for David Beckham turning round the fortunes of the Los Angeles Galaxy and revolutionizing soccer in the United States.
Just 19 games into the 2008 Major League Soccer season, the Galaxy have parted company with manager Ruud Gullit and president/general manager Alexi Lalas.
Lalas was influential in luring Beckham from Real Madrid to Rodeo Drive. Now, after a seven-game winless streak that has dropped L.A. out of the play-off positions in the Western Conference, he and Gullit are gone.
The former Dutch international reportedly resigned due to “personal reasons” less than a year into his three-year contract. Assistant Cobi Jones has been appointed interim coach.
Neither Beckham – in the first year of a five-year deal worth an estimated $250 million – nor his representatives have yet to comment on the upheaval.
But Tim Leiweke, chief executive of electrical giants AEG, the company that owns the Galaxy, admitted: “Ruud was their guy so him resigning and us accepting that obviously is not a good day for them.
“This was my decision solely. I don’t think David knew about this decision until the team meeting. I saw him right before I went into the locker room and I don’t even think he knew what I was about to do.”
Lalas, Gullit leave L.A. under cloud
Beckham’s arrival in Los Angeles was greeted with mass hysteria by the U.S. media. But the latest moves by the Galaxy have been overshadowed by the Olympics, baseball and the advent of a new football season. Yes, that’s football…not soccer.
One year ago, Sunil Gulati, president of the United States Soccer Federation, questioned whether Beckham’s presence would have any long-term effect on the sport’s growth in the U.S.A.
“The worldwide interest in Beckham is extraordinary,” said Gulati. “The hope is with all the media attention, fan attention, television interest and sponsors that you can sustain some of that and allow soccer to be on a higher level.
“Pele took us up but we couldn’t sustain it. Sustaining the higher level, that’s the big issue. It’s not inevitable.”
Beckham, himself, has become a celebrity on both sides of the Atlantic. Most Americans, even those who don’t follow sports, know who he is. For a soccer player, that’s an achievement itself.
Posh and Becks are now pictured in the U.S. newspapers as often as they are in the British tabloids.
Beckham is the first to concede that he won’t make soccer the biggest sport in America. But he was hoping his arrival would make a difference.
Judging by events in Los Angeles this week, a lot of the gloss has already worn off.