That's how David Beckham must be viewed by some circles in Monaco. At one point last year the story went round that he might be joining the Principality's soccer club ASM. As usual with anything relating to Grimaldiland, there were contradictory rumours but almost no solid information. However, the Prince's PR people must have seen his possible arrival as a huge coup. Some people, though, were likely less enthusiastic, especially among the stuffier Brits like those in and around Bargemon who, when the Beckhams bought a house in the area, muttered to each other that they were not their kind of people.
It's easy to imagine the thin-lipped disdain over the cappuccinos on Boulevard des Moulins for David's enthusiasm for flashing his pecs and leaping about in his underpants in TV ads for men's underwear. As we've noted before, the couple have spent very little time in their Var residence; it's been suggested because it's said to be haunted by Mr. Duck, the former owner, a Brit, who hanged himself there.
"More than on-field skills"
Now it's been officially announced that the ball bender has signed with the Paris club PSG, owned by the Qataris. In fact, earlier last year he was in negotiation with them but these eventually fell apart. It's amusing to recall the contortions at that time of the French sports daily L'Equipe: at first it exclaimed at PSG's good fortune in attracting such talent; the tone became more negative when it seemed that the British player wasn't going to come. As one writer put it, "Maybe at 37 he's come to realise that he's not really good enough for Ligue 1." Their more recent comments have been rather less committal in tone.
Clearly, the Qataris have taken into account more than Beckham's on-field skills. As Nasser El-Khelaifi, the royal family's point man in Paris has said, "He's bigger than sport... He's a brand... His age isn't a problem."
He's certainly slated to play a major role in promoting the World Cup in Doha in 2022. The Qataris clearly like him and he knows how to please. His decision to devote his €150 000 a week salary to children's charities was not only a good PR move but also shines well with the Islamic principle of giving to the less fortunate.
He's also made efforts to please the locals. At his initial press conference - where his undoubted charm was in evidence - he promised to "brush up" his French. This doesn't mean much: his linguistic skills are minimal (in Madrid he was limited to not much more than Si, Si and anyway he'll be spending a lot of time in London with his family (young Brooklyn, 13, has already had a trial for Chelsea!). His initial contract is for just five months which means he'll be able to dodge Hollande's coming 75 per cent tax grab and pay his more modest dues to George Osborne.
And one last point: according to the BBC Sport website "Beckham revealed that his children would stay in London and go to school along with his wife Victoria". Just clumsy expression? Maybe, maybe not... After all Posh once admitted to an interviewer that she'd never read a book...
Beckham - The one that got away...
- Patrick Middleton