The signing of David Beckham to an A-League club would undoubtedly be one of the biggest moments in the history of the competition and Australian football in general, but do we really need him?
Is it wise to blow hundreds of thousands of dollars on the 37-year-old English superstar for a guest stint that would only last until February? I think not.
Beckham announced last week that he intends to play on after his stint with the LA Galaxy ends in early December, sparking a frenzy in Australia in which the Central Coast Mariners, Perth Glory, Adelaide United and Melbourne Heart all declared they would attempt to lure him down under.
But while Beckham’s signature would definitely be a massive boost for the profile of the A-League and football in Australia, clubs should think twice before they throw everything at the former England international.
There are a number of factors that these clubs need to consider before handing over a king’s ransom for the former Manchester United pin-up boy.
Many would argue that Beckham would put more bums on seats and promote the A-League to the rest of the world.
But with the likes of Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono turning out every week for Sydney FC, Newcastle Jets and Western Sydney Wanders, attendance figures are already up from last season and viewers are tuning in from Italy, England and Japan to watch their national stars play in Australia.
The fact that Beckham is even considering playing in the A-League can be seen as somewhat of an achievement and shows that football in Australia is already at a level where we can attract players of this calibre.
But instead of focusing on the short-term benefits of Beckham’s star power and the effect that it might add to our already thriving league, we should be looking at developing our young stars and bringing through the next Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka or Tim Cahill.
The money that one club might spend on a two-month Beckham stint should instead be injected at the grassroots level, a sentiment reflected by Socceroos captain Lucas Neill.
“My view is people still need to engage the grassroots…I don’t think the clubs are doing enough,” Neill said.
“Yes, they’re trying to do it, but there needs to be more focus and people need to think long-term rather than short-term.”
There’s no doubt that Central Coast, Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne would all benefit from Beckham’s skill and expertise on the field, but should we be shunting our homegrown players to make room for him?
Would the Mariners consider benching the league’s leading goal-scorer Daniel McBreen if Beckham signed with Central Coast?
Would Adelaide have to give less game time to one of our best young footballers in Dario Vidisic to accommodate Beckham?
Would Melbourne ask Richard Garcia to step aside should Beckham sign with the Heart?
Or would Perth start Beckham in favour of Travis Dodd, a stalwart of the game who has made 334 appearances for Australian clubs since 1996?The hype and excitement that David Beckham would bring to Australia is undeniable. But David Gallop and our A-League clubs should put their faith in the performance of the game and our exciting homegrown talent, rather than in the hands of a 37-year-old Englishman.