Well, sort of.
Here’s the back story: By now, anyone who pays the slightest amount of attention to MLS knows David Beckham and Landon Donovan, the team’s biggest stars, both want to flee for Europe, where they are on loan with two of the continent’s biggest clubs.
Donovan has openly agitated for a move for months and appears to be closing in on a transfer to Bayern Munich, while Beckham said for the first time Wednesday he wants to play for AC Milan. That’s something he reiterated today, telling the Associated Press he has “rediscovered” himself as a footballer in Italy.
Beckham’s remarks are the culmination of weeks of speculation over AC Milan’s intentions, with club officials from the president down virtually to the janitor (well, O.K. it was the AC Milan lawyer, but you get the idea) saying over and over again they want Beckham to stay.
The Galaxy’s response? Almost total silence. The club has had nothing of any substance to say about either player.
In a sense, it’s understandable. The Galaxy won’t want to tip its hand publicly to anyone – rivals or the two clubs it must negotiate with – with so much at stake.
Moreover, the corporate culture of Galaxy owner Anschutz Entertainment Group has always been what one could charitably call “cagey” or realistically describe as fear-filled. And if your boss was the brash and outspoken Tim Leiweke, you’d be reticent to speak publicly, too.
But let’s not mistake the Galaxy’s silence as part of a calculated let’s play hard to get bargaining strategy.
In truth the lack of comment from the Galaxy borders on the ludicrous. At best it’s insulting to fans who deserve to know what’s going on before they plonk down money for season tickets .
At worst it just makes the Galaxy and MLS look amateurish.
A week or so ago I was one of a trio of journalists who spent a good 15-20 minutes with Bruce Arena as he dodged and weaved his way through an interview without truly saying anything.
It was amusing in passing, but largely a waste of time. Since then things have only deteriorated further as columnist Martin Rogers pointed out in a Yahoo! column:
As a money-making venture, the Galaxy must be viewed as a success, with a value far greater than any other MLS team, for now at least. But as a sports organization it is rotten, having cannibalized itself with the wrong decisions made for the wrong reasons.
The decision to close ranks on Wednesday and fail to offer comment on the Beckham situation, even after the 33-year-old had announced his desire to leave, was typical Galaxy.
Training was closed to the media, and no players were allowed to speak publicly. The acquisition of Todd Dunivant from Toronto FC was deemed to be the most newsworthy item on the team website.
Ignore the issue and it will go away? Barring a miracle, Beckham has gone away.
The Los Angeles Times has similarly weighed in:
His departure will focus attention on the shortcomings of MLS and of the Galaxy in particular. If the league wants to be taken seriously on a global level, it has to learn how to play the game off the field as well as on it.
It is no good putting up the shutters, as the Galaxy did this week, and saying “no comment” when stories began pouring out of Europe on an almost daily basis about Beckham’s desire to stay in Milan and Milan’s desire to keep Beckham.
It’s one of those occasions when the media is reduced to interviewing each other to provide context to the story.
Amusingly, the Galaxy moved into damage control Thursday, issuing this statement last night to the media:
“Just want to confirm with everyone that we do in fact have media availability after training tomorrow. Training begins at 10 a.m. and should finish right around 11:30, with players and coaches available after.
I know that we have not had much out there from the club over the last two days, but we have been open every day and will be once again on Friday.”
And, as if to prove their intention of actually communicating, the Galaxy issued this statement from Arena Thursday regarding Beckham’s remarks about staying in Milan:
“I really didn’t have the opportunity to see the full context of his comments. However, we’ve been evaluating the situation. We’re going to do in the end what’s best for the Galaxy.”
Gee, thanks for clearing that up, Bruce. Nice to know you’re looking out for the team first (I bet you are opposed to crime and cruelty to puppies and kittens, too).
Llong-winded comments that are essentially the equivalent of “no comment” only confirm the lack of candor from the club. That’s something that has not gone unnoticed in Europe as this excerpt of an interview on the Bayern Munich Web site with chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge shows, who was asked whether the Galaxy would allow both Donovan and Beckham to leave:
“I don’t know. AC Milan rang up yesterday with the same question. They’re obviously doubtful whether Galaxy would let both go. But if I know my Americans, it probably comes down to the price.”
So we are left to scour the back alleys of MLS to find out what’s going on with an anonymous source this morning telling The Washington Post’s Steve Goff that the Galaxy are chasing Ghanian midfielder Stephen Appiah who has left his Turkish club.
Care to comment, Bruce?