Galaxy midfielder David Beckham arrives at a Staples Center news conference… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
The Galaxy officially welcomed David Beckham back into the fold Thursday — never mind the fact he'd never really left.
Never mind too that he hasn't finished signing the five contracts he has with the team, some of which run more than 40 pages.
"Once we agreed to terms, a handshake was good enough," said Tim Leiweke, president and chief executive of AEG, the entertainment group that owns the Galaxy. "We'll let the lawyers handle the paperwork."
Three weeks ago it looked like the only thing the lawyers would be handling was the paperwork for Beckham's departure. French club Paris-St. Germain was dangling a $1-million-a-month contract and two English Premier League clubs were also pushing hard. So when Leiweke went on a skiing trip just before Christmas, he figured his star player was gone.
By the time he got back to the office Jan. 2, however, the situation had changed. On New Year's Eve, the day Beckham's five-year deal with the Galaxy expired, he had a discussion with wife Victoria at their home in London and decided his family liked Los Angeles too much to leave it.
"I didn't want to leave," Beckham said at a Staples Center news conference Thursday. "And I'm happy to be back."
To which Leiweke offered a toast of his own. "It wasn't the Galaxy that won out here. It was Los Angeles," he said.
Whether Los Angeles — and specifically the Galaxy — continues winning out is another matter. The team Beckham will be rejoining is vastly different than the one he nearly left, because a half-dozen key performers from last year's MLS Cup champions will be missing from the Galaxy roster when it opens its season in March.
Yet the challenge of trying to hold on to that title is one of the things that drew Beckham back.
"I've never come back after a season with the Galaxy and been a champion. I wanted to have that feeling," said Beckham, who called last year's victory in the Cup final one of the most emotional moments of his career.
"But we're not finished," he added. "I'm not just happy with one championship. I want more."
And he could get two shots at that. Beckham's contract, which reportedly is worth $15 million, is for one year with a mutual option for a second season.
"We have a commitment to him for two years. He has a commitment to us for two years," Leiweke said. "And at the end of the year we'll see how it's working out."
Galaxy officials said structuring the deal that way gives Beckham, who turns 37 in May, the option to retire on his own terms after the season. Yet that's something the former English national team captain said he's not considering.
But he conceded Thursday that his thinking has changed over the years. So while his decision to come to Los Angeles five years ago was a soccer one, his decision to stay was mainly a family one.
"Me and Victoria talked about it many times," said Beckham, whose family includes three boys and a 6-month-old daughter. "Our older son was a big part of it. He's 12 years old and he needs some stability in his schooling."
Besides, Beckham confessed, he has become a big Lakers fan.
"We knew the first day we arrived … that this could be a place where we would spend many years," he said. "I wasn't wrong."