Galaxy Break Silence on Beckham

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.

(You can read the whole thing here, BTW.

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.

(You can read the whole thing here).

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?

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About Nick Green

South Bay-based Los Angeles News Group soccer columnist and blogger Nick Green writes at the 100 Percent Soccer blog at www.insidesocal.com/soccer and craft beer at the Beer Goggles blog at www.insidesocal.com/beer. Cheers!
  • The Bruce

    No Comment.

  • Nell

    Nick, in your last few posts, you seem to equate the Donovan situation with the Beckham situation, and I think they are entirely different.

    Donovan made it known to the Galaxy and MLS from the very beginning he was seeking a transfer. He turned in a transfer request at the end of the season. On his 10-day trial back in November, he was interviewed via satellite when he won the Honda POY award and said “keep your fingers crossed” that it works out for him. He said publically many times in interviews over there that he wants to play in Europe. MLS and Galaxy knew all this – and okayed it. He’s been open and honest from the very beginning.

    Beckham, on the other hand, has been very cunning and deceitful in his dealings. He went behind Galaxy’s back and negotiated a loan trial with AC Milan without their knowledge. Then he says he’ll be back, he’s only going for fitness for the national team. Now he’s got his lawyers working on getting him out of the deal. He knew this all along, but hid his motives.

    I hope the Galaxy ackowledge the difference in the 2 players whenever they go public – if they ever go public.

  • http://www.unionultras.com East LA Chiva

    Adios David, Landon, and MLS Cup.

    BTW, Chivas USA tickets are cheaper and the team is …..well, better than LAG. Actually, most of the MLS is too. At least the tickets are cheaper.

  • Bella

    Nell, I don’t think Beckham did know all along that he wanted to go to Milan. He didn’t even know if he would get a game with Milan until after he got there. He was went to train with them and hoped to get some time on the pitch, but no one predicted that he would either fit into their system or play as well as he has been. In fact most people predicted the opposite.

    Either way, I think the Galaxy is better off with the space in their salary cap to build a good team on a solid foundation.

  • RonnyACB

    That is true EASTL.A Chivas, Chivas USA TIX are cheaper. But in the end they’re still Chivas USA. You guys can be in 1st place and no one will watch you, at least the Galaxy can be in last place and still sell out the stadium.

  • Amberson

    The empire strikes back….

    http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-beckham-galaxy7-2009feb07,0,5737338.story

    Leiweke responds to Beckham situation.

  • Beaten

    Everyone in Europe knows that the contract for players isn’t worth the paper that it’s printed on.

    Star power is the currency that drives professional soccer, and now the Galaxy is getting a painful lesson from the “Beckham Money Making Machine” as it sets its sights on Italy.

    The Galaxy can already be faulted for not thinking this whole transfer process through. Hopefully they won’t commit the biggest mistake in LA sports history by letting their best asset walk out the front door just weeks before the 2009 season begins.

    If they do manage to fall on their sword, then I hope that they have enough of those cardboard cut-outs ready for all of the empty seats that we’ll be seeing in MLS stadiums this year..

  • Joseph D’Hippolito

    So, Timbo, now that the zoo has come back to bite you in your biological seat cushion, you need to end it. You didn’t feel that way when you intro’d Ruud Gullit in 2007. In fact, you said that you *liked* the zoo-like atmosphere.

    No wonder they call you, “Lie-weekly”….