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David Beckham on the commitment issue

The Los Angeles Galaxy star fields a question from 'The Beckham Experiment' author Grant Wahl.

July 16, 2009|GRAHAME L. JONES

HOBOKEN, N.J. — David Beckham should have known it was coming.

Sooner or later, now that he is back in the United States, he would run into Grant Wahl at a news conference. It happened here Wednesday, ahead of tonight's Galaxy game against the New York Red Bulls at Giants Stadium.

Wahl's book, "The Beckham Experiment," was released this week and features several comments critical of Beckham by Alexi Lalas, the Galaxy's former president, and Landon Donovan, the Galaxy's current American star.

Wahl, a Sports Illustrated writer, had a question ready.

"David, people in America understand that you want to play for your national team, but how do you justify being fully committed to the Galaxy, and to MLS and American soccer, when you're a part-time player this year and you've already stated you want to be a part-time player next year as well?"

Beckham did not blink.

"Let me just clear this up first," he began. "Is this question for the second unofficial book or for the magazine?"

That caused a bit of a titter in the audience.

"I think this might be authorized," Wahl replied, "but maybe not as interesting."

"I'm sure not," said Beckham, who earlier had gone to great lengths to point out that Wahl's book had received neither his cooperation nor his blessing and that he had not read it.

"There are many unofficial books that have been published about me, so this is just another one on the shelf," the English soccer star said Saturday.

Beckham's answer Wednesday was long, but the essence of it was this: "If I didn't want to be here, I wouldn't."

The exchange, while amusing, had a point. Beckham insists that he has to either return to AC Milan once the MLS season ends in November or join another top-flight club so that he can remain in contention to play for England during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

"I want to be involved in the World Cup," Beckham said. "I've not hidden that fact. But even going back on loan to AC Milan or to another club doesn't guarantee my place in the World Cup squad, if and when we qualify.

"So at the moment, all I'm concentrating on is being a part of this [Galaxy] team and being successful with this team. Once the season is over, then I'll decide what I do from then on. But leading up to the World Cup, the England manager has made it very clear to me that I need to be playing at a European level.

"I'll always regret it if I didn't do everything to give myself a chance to be involved" in the 2010 World Cup, which would be Beckham's fourth.

All of which leads to the obvious question: Will the Galaxy allow Beckham to go out on a six-month loan again and miss the first half of the 2010 MLS season?

That was the hot potato that landed in Bruce Arena's lap Wednesday. Twice, the Galaxy's coach and general manager juggled it without answering it.

"I think having David Beckham on our team is just a fabulous asset," Arena said. "It was a little bit awkward, the loan process, but fully within the conditions of his contract. . . . We knew the pros and cons attributed to David leaving on loan. It was well understood. As we planned for the season, we knew David would be back in July, and I'm hopeful that we will prove to everyone that it's been a great opportunity for not only David but it will reap benefits for the Galaxy as well."

So Arena would do it again next year?

"I've had a great 30 years coaching," he said. "This is a high point. It's not a low point. It's fabulous to have a player of this caliber in our squad. I look forward to working with David for the remainder of the season."

The most revealing exchange Wednesday resulted from a question by an Australian television reporter.

"David, in your ideal world, you would now be in preseason with Milan, is that correct?

Said Beckham: "If I was contracted to a European club, yes, I would."

There was more than a hint of wistfulness in his answer.

--

grahame.jones@latimes.com

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