It was, not surprisingly, to the well-favored Meson Txistu restaurant on Plaza Angel Carbajo in the heart of Madrid, that David Beckham, his family and his friends weaved their celebratory way late on the night of June 17.
Real Madrid had just won its first Spanish championship in four years, in Beckham's final game for the club, and the mood was festive. Choruses of "campeones, campeones, ole, ole, ole," soon drifted into the night sky from the windows of the restaurant's private upstairs dining room.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday July 15, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 68 words Type of Material: Correction
Soccer: In the July 8 Sports section, a profile of David Beckham referred to Sir Bobby Moore. Moore, who was the captain of England's 1966 World Cup-winning team, was awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) but not a knighthood. Also, in a list of "power couples" that accompanied the profile, the first name of John McEnroe's wife, Patty Smyth, was misspelled as Patti.
It was a joyous occasion and a sad one, what with Beckham leaving after his turbulent but ultimately triumphant years in Spain.
The wine bill, when it arrived about 5 a.m., came to $60,000. According to some reports, a local vineyard owner picked up the tab. Even then, the festivities were not over.
Beckham, his wife, Victoria -- former Spice Girl Posh Spice -- and close friends Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes then went dancing, the Beckhams not arriving at their multimillion-dollar mansion in the La Moraleja neighborhood until after 7:30 a.m.
It's a different life that the Beckhams enjoy, and this week as he joins the Galaxy they will be starting to lead part of it in Los Angeles, or rather in the more rarefied air of the 90210 ZIP code in Beverly Hills.
But Jed Clampett and kin they are not. David, Victoria and their children Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz long have been accustomed to the very best of everything. Don't look for that to change just because the world's wealthiest soccer player is switching continents.
Beckham's $33 million income last year -- from soccer and from endorsements with Adidas, PepsiCo, Gillette and image-rights contracts -- puts him in the same tax bracket as, say, Kobe Bryant, according to Forbes magazine, making him slightly better paid than Shaquille O'Neal ($32 million) and Brazilian soccer star Ronaldinho ($31 million). Whatever his net worth is, Beckham can party just as well in California as he can in Europe.
On Friday morning, Beckham will be introduced at the Home Depot Center in Carson as the newest member of the Galaxy. A week from Monday, he will train for the first time with the Major League Soccer team. On July 21, he will make his debut in a Galaxy uniform against English club Chelsea and begin earning some of the much-ballyhooed $250 million that his five-year MLS contract potentially could be worth in salary and endorsements.
All of this will be worldwide news, but in the U.S. it will no doubt cause heads to be shaken and scratched in bemusement from Dubuque to Daytona Beach.
Who is this guy?
Leaving soccer and Beckham's many accomplishments on the field with Manchester United, Real Madrid and in three World Cups with England out of it altogether, the answer is simple and twofold.
David Robert Joseph Beckham is a celebrity and a brand. Soccer was the vehicle he rode to fame and fortune, but the 32-year-old has traveled far, far beyond those teenage years when he slogged through the winter rain and mud of Manchester.
There is, for instance, "Beckingham Palace," which is what the pun-loving British media dubbed the $15-million riverfront estate that the Beckhams bought in 1999 at Sawbridgeworth in the Hertfordshire countryside just outside London.
That was shortly after their marriage, a lavish affair at Luttrellstown Castle near Dublin. Setting a tone that would echo through the years, the ceremony and reception -- exclusive access was given to one magazine -- cost a reported $1 million and included the Beckhams smiling benevolently at their guests from golden thrones.
This sort of thing will go down well in Hollywood, where excess is often seen as a virtue and where the couple referred to by some English tabloids as "King David and Queen Victoria" will fit right in.
Their base here will be Beckingham Palace West, a $22-million, 13,000-square-foot villa they purchased in Beverly Hills in April and where their close neighbors include Cruise and Holmes.
Victoria is said to be decorating the place in Moroccan style, similar to their Madrid home, so Beckham will feel immediately at ease in his new surroundings.
No doubt he will feel even better once he starts putting a few cars in his new garage. Among his many and varied interests, Beckham is a car collector. In England, his fleet at one time or another has included a $220,000 Lamborghini Gallardo, plus an assortment of high-end Ferraris, Porsches, Jaguars and Mercedes-Benzes.
When he was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 2003 for his services to soccer, Beckham received the honor from Queen Elizabeth and, suitably, made the trek from Beckingham Palace to Buckingham Palace in his silver Bentley Arnage.
His cars invariably involve some custom tinkering. In Spain, for example, he drove around in an armor-plated BMW X5 SUV that ended up being stolen, but also a $120,000 Range Rover V8 Vogue, with bulletproof doors and windows, a television and a 12-speaker stereo system.