Beckham In Paris: What Have We Learnt From His First Month With PSG?
From The Signing To The First Appearance
He grabbed his first minutes of playing time in last Sunday's Le Classique, but was already a PSG player for 25 days. Following his arrival on deadline day, he kept 10 days to himself to make a number of arrangements, most notably Victoria’s fashion show and accommodation in Paris, before finally undergoing his first training session.
It was the 13th of February; he did not have a single minute of professional football since the MLS final, 75 days earlier. His first steps on the training pitch saw the biggest attendance ever in journalists for any kind of non official sporting event in the country. Every public step of the spice boy was subject to an article in the paper or a radio debate. The sports news channel couldn’t be happier with a topic they could get out of the cupboard every time they were lacking of live action: “Is Beckham just a commercial coup?”
Every single sports personality was asked about it, and more surprising, everyone had an opinion about it. Some said that his main job was already done here, with the gigantic media exposure the club was benefiting from the day he said yes to the Qatari owner. Not a single press conference lasted more than 5minutes before the name of a so-far unfit player popped out. Ancelotti never seemed angered at this. He faced the same situation a few years back when Becks joined AC Milan for a few weeks under his management. On the contrary, the Italian coach was delighted to repeat the scenario once again.
And then one day, the coach said Beckham was fit and a potential starter for the next game.
The Worldwide Show
A few days before the game against Marseille, which is traditionally the most exposed from the French league, the coach declared Beckham ready to get into the action. The league calendar was just a present from heavens for the club’s board. They would be able to combine the most watched French league game of the year with the sportive introduction of the most bankable player of the world. A double win situation. The only hiccup being that this game would not be broadcasted live on “BeInSport”, the sports channel launched in France by Qatari authorities.
A couple of hours before the world media discovered that he will be starting on the frozen bench. The “Beck-cam”, a word describing the camera Canal+ will only use to shoot the English star, would have it easy for a while. Nonetheless, a genuine crowd introduction was organised just before kick-off. David walked in, all alone, accompanied by the very disputable musical choice of McCartney’s “Hey Jude”. A few seconds of crowd waving and he was back in the ranks with the other substitute.
The game was happening under his eyes and the French audience was offered a Beckham every five minutes, whether it was David sitting quietly on the Bench or Victoria, frozen in the stands. A pitch side TV journalist even dared asking him a couple of questions live during the second half, which obviously surprised him.
The Football Player
37 years, 9 months and 22 days had past when Becks made his first steps in the French league, making of him the oldest current player registered (and the oldest since Claude Makelele’s last game in May 2011). To make sure he leaves a footprint the PSG record book, he was the 400th player to ever wear the blue and red shirt for an official game. Which he did. The icon took off his sweater and replaced Marco Verratti with 14 minutes to play, and his new team struggling to keep their one goal lead.
The substitution was man for man, meaning that as expected, Beckham will be used as a holding midfielder more than a winger, in order to utilise his passing capabilities as much as possible without exposing his lack of speed.
14 footballs played in 14 minutes, a 67% ratio in pass completion and a decisive pass for Menez, whose cross went on to strike Ibrahimovic’s knee for the second goal in injury time. That’s it for a first appearance. Nothing more to bite for all the journalists eager to judge the player.
Another chance to shine was offered to him, as three days later both teams met again in Paris for the Coupe de France last 16 encounter. Marseille may've opted for the same starting XI, while PSG made eight changes. This made room for David as a holding midfielder alongside the underrated and never-out-of-breath Matuidi. The Brit enjoyed 84 minutes on the pitch, looking not so exhausted in the end. He played his role perfectly, delivering set pieces like no one, playing the ball long or short, forwards or sideways with intelligence.
That’s what he learnt from 20 years of playing at the top level. Then the question of his physical aptitude appears solved as he did not seem to decline as the minutes passed. He even enjoyed a long run at the 82nd minute ending in a little bust-up with Jordan Ayew. Cleverly, he quickly stepped away from the growing brawl after checking his hair was still in place.
Most of the papers and specialised websites awarded him a 6/10 mark, proving that the job was done properly, without any fuss.
PSG being still en route for a treble (Champions League, Ligue 1, Coupe de France), there will be a lot of turnover to make sure players are not exhausted when a game kicks off. Three months to go and potentially 21 games to play, mean his presence will be required not only off the pitch, but on it also.
Beckham already proved to most that the Qatari's were right to sign him, and not only for commercial purposes. He showed those still in doubt that he is still fit enough to last 90 minutes of a particularly intense encounter. If he maintains the level he had on Wednesday against Marseille, then every PSG fan would consider his spell at the club as a useful one. It could even become a memorable one if silverware is obtained at the end of it.
In a nutshell, his impact will be notable on the club’s balance, the players’ attitude, the fans’ happiness and as he just proved, on the team results. For all of this Beckham joining PSG for free, even for 4 months and even at nearly 38 years old, has to be tagged as “the deal of the year”.