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David Beckham to play for Paris-St. Germain — for free

The soccer star has signed a five-month contract and will donate his salary to a children's charity in Paris.

January 31, 2013|By Kevin Baxter

A year ago, Paris-St. Germain's deep-pocketed owners offered David Beckham $1 million a month to come to France, and he turned them down. On Thursday, he apparently had a change of heart, signing a five-month contract to play in Paris for free.

Two months after leading the Galaxy to its second consecutive Major League Soccer title, Beckham ended his short retirement by joining the leaders of France's Ligue 1 on a short-term deal in which his salary will be donated to a children's charity in Paris.

"We decided on something that is quite unique," Beckham told reporters at his introductory news conference. "It's something I'm not sure has been done before, and it's something I'm very passionate about, children and the charity side of things. And so are the club.

"We came together and it's something special."

Exactly how much the charity will get isn't known since the terms of Beckham's contract were not released. Given the spending patterns of Paris-St. Germain's Qatari owners, however, the donation could be substantial. Over the last 18 months Paris-St. Germain has shelled out $300 million in transfer fees, outspending every other club in Europe to land the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva from AC Milan, Napoli winger Ezequiel Lavezzi and Brazil's Lucas Moura.

That has fueled the club's rise to the top of the Ligue 1 standings, which it leads on goal differential. Should the team finish the season there, it would mark PSG's first Ligue 1 title in two decades and give Beckham a record fourth domestic league crown to go with championships won in the U.S. with the Galaxy, in Spain with Real Madrid and in England with Manchester United.

At 37, Beckham is the oldest player in Ligue 1, a league generally considered a level below those in Spain, England, Italy and Germany. And though Beckham is eligible to play in Friday's match against Toulouse, he resumed training only this week and said Thursday that he'll need two to three weeks to regain his fitness. When he finally does pull on his blue No. 32 jersey — the numbers reversed from the No. 23 he wore with the Galaxy — Beckham will be suiting up for his sixth team in his fifth country. And he may not be done.

"It all depends on what the future holds for us," said Beckham, who reportedly had firm offers from a dozen clubs scattered around the world. "What I do know is that I feel in perfect physical condition. I still have an enormous passion and hunger from the game, and I'm delighted to get another chance to give everything on the pitch.

"We'll see how it goes and how I feel at the end of the season."

PSG, meanwhile, will be counting on Beckham to give the team and the league the kind of credibility and global attention he brought to the Galaxy and MLS.

"He is part of our ambitious sporting project to become one of the biggest clubs in Europe," said Nasser Khelaifi, who manages soccer operations for Qatar Sport Investment, a joint venture of the Qatari government and the Qatari Olympic Committee. "He has always been a great professional, and he will bring a lot to the club."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

twitter.com/kbaxter11

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