Experienced Beckham to kick off French football spring

PARIS Fri Feb 1, 2013 10:58pm IST

Soccer player David Beckham attends a news conference in Paris January 31, 2013. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Soccer player David Beckham attends a news conference in Paris January 31, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

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PARIS (Reuters) - Given his age, David Beckham may not bring much footballing skill to Paris St Germain but his mere presence at the club is expected to bring stability to the team and boost the French league's value and the image of their Qatari owners.

The former England captain, 37, has a battle on his hands to claim a place in the starting lineup yet is renowned for his professional approach which could rub off on his team mates.

"He is the perfect professional. One of the most professional players I've had under my guidance," PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said in 2009 when he was Beckham's manager at AC Milan.

A family man with four children, Beckham is these days highly unlikely to be spotted partying in a Paris night club. He is on a mission, after all.

"I don't see this as a short-term project. I consider myself part of the club's future," the free agent said on Thursday when his five-month deal was announced.

"I'm part of this project...helping the club become one of the biggest powerhouses in football."

Part-time model Beckham will add glamour to Ligue 1, a league that is widely seen as less high profile than Serie A, Bundesliga, La Liga or the Premier League - and much less profitable.

The former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder probably lacks the juice to be a first-team regular, especially after years in the less demanding Major League Soccer.

Still, Beckham will not be a luxury.

"Given the personality of the PSG coach, if he gave the green light for Beckham to be a member of the PSG team and not the club's marketing department, it means that he can bring something on the sporting side," Olympique Lyon owner Jean-Michel Aulas told reporters on Friday.

SHARP SUITS

His marketing value is nonetheless much higher than his sporting worth.

Beckham's sharp suits covering a patchwork of tattoos epitomise his double image as every mother's ideal son-in-law and a secret bad boy.

The bad boy, though, seems to have been mostly left at the Geoffroy Guichard stadium in St Etienne, where he was sent off in a World Cup second round game in 1998 against Argentina.

The ideal son-in-law has centre stage now.

"Beckham, it's classy," France and Olympique Marseille forward Mathieu Valbuena told reporters.

"His signing at PSG is a fantastic publicity coup which will benefit Ligue 1."

OM coach Elie Baup added: "If they signed him, it means that he fits the club's project."

Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) have already spent over 200 million euros on transfers since taking over the club less than two years ago.

Beckham 's transfer did not cost them anything and he will not even earn a salary as his wages will be donated to a children's charity, a move that will spare PSG a lot of associated wage costs.

With analysts saying the selling of 110-euro Beckham shirts should bring in 17 million euros, it does not take rocket science to figure out that the London-born footballer is a good deal for all involved.

"It is something huge," said French League (LFP) president Frederic Thiriez.

"It will arouse huge interest all over the world. The whole world will want to watch this," he added, also referring to Sweden and PSG striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic's presence in Ligue 1.

"It will help our league grow. It will add value to Ligue 1. The effect will be felt everywhere: in terms of attendance in the stadiums, but also in terms of TV rights overseas."

Aulas seconded that point of view.

"Beckham's arrival could double the TV rights overseas," he told reporters.

The risk is that the happy period will last only until the Qataris, who have also invested in the renovation of the Paris suburbs, pull away from French investment.

Thiriez is not worried.

"I have no doubt that this investment, in the TV rights and in PSG, is a long-term investment. Sport is the main vector of their strategy to boost their international influence," he said.

"It is a huge opportunity for French football." (Additional reporting by Andre Assier in Lyon and Jean-Francois Rosnoblet in Marseille; Editing by Mark Meadows)

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