ON SUNDAY an ageing midfielder made a 16-minute debut for his new club.
He didn’t run the game. He didn’t dazzle with his creative skill. Admittedly, he played a part in the second goal, but essentially it was a short, sweet cameo.
Upon this thoroughly unremarkable display, the player was hauled up in front of the media and his words were treated like gold that reporters fell upon.
Thousands of column inches were written about him the world over. His face was emblazoned on newspaper pages and websites. He was virtually inescapable.
This is Brand Beckham in action, presumably the effect Paris Saint-Germain’s super-rich Qatari hierarchy were going for when they brought him to the French capital last month.
For this is a man who contributes only a tiny proportion of what he used to on a football field. In his pomp, Beckham was a thoroughly gifted right-sided midfielder, a man who could put a cross on a 10-pence piece, bend an impossible free kick into the top corner and galvanise an entire team with his work rate.
Now, although undeniably still a supreme passer of the ball, Beckham’s main contribution to this world is not as an artist in the Beautiful Game, but as the face of a money-making machine.
He was not signed by the French outfit for his supreme footballing ability. He was signed because he is one of the most marketable men in the world. The power of Beckham to draw attention to a club, to get people through the gates, to get them buying merchandise, shirts in particular, is incredible.
I believe that appealed to Paris Saint-Germain’s owners greatly, but as football fans, should we resent these motives, if they indeed are the case?
Many will. Others will say that the PSG hierarchy are merely capitalising on an obvious business opportunity. Plenty will have a foot in both camps.
One thing that cannot be denied is that football has become a funny place when an outrageously wealthy club is signing an average player.
I remember, when constructing dream teams in my formative years, that I picked the players I thought were the best in the world. The idea of including someone on the grounds of anything other than footballing ability, was ridiculous.
Paris Saint-Germain, to a degree, have the ability to select their own dream team. That they choose not to do so says more about the importance the football club places on money than Carlo Ancelotti’s eye for a player.