David Beckham would do any club an immeasurable amount of good, but if any club really needs him it’s Melbourne Heart.
He boasts some of the game-s all-time greats as former teammates. He-s played at three of the biggest clubs in world football. Roy Keane and Paolo Maldini have barked orders at him as respective captains. And he-s been educated in the game of football by renowned managers, Sir Alex Ferguson, Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti.
From all reports he-s also got a bit of a profile off the park, too. So for a club like Melbourne Heart that-s intent on nurturing promising talent and eager to step out of the shadows of its cross-town rival, Melbourne Victory, David Beckham seems the perfect fit for the Bundoora-based club.
Sure, some might see the move as a little hypocritical. Heart CEO Scott Munn has been on the record criticising Victory when it signed Harry Kewell last season, saying at the time “no single player is bigger than the club and that-s our focus”, and if successful in landing the former Manchester United, Real Madrid and AC Milan star, Heart may lend itself to criticism for adding another veteran to its first team when its policy is about giving youth a go.
The truth is, however, they won-t be. With player development a key component of the club-s make-up, they-d be getting themselves arguably one of the best collections of football knowledge this country has ever had.
Imagine the advice Beckham could give to marauding full-backs Aziz Behich and Michael Marrone, recalling the darting runs of Roberto Carlos and the astute positioning of Maldini. He could teach developing winger Ben Garuccio how to stay wide, find space and cut into the box, as old friend and long-time teammate Ryan Giggs did so masterfully. And not only could he assist Mate Dugandzic in overcoming a broken metatarsal, but instruct him in the art of playing the flank and knowing where, when and how to deliver that inch-perfect cross time and again.
Perhaps more importantly, Beckham could add further knowledge in the area of youth development, having graduated from United-s famed youth academy, which Ferguson rates second to only Barcelona-s La Masia centre.
“Over the years we-ve been as good as anyone in [England] and probably the best at doing that,” he recently said. “You look at the way Barcelona have produced players and we-re not far off that. We-ve had so many come through down the years and more recently we-ve had the likes of Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley and Rafael come into the first team.”
Under the scheme, Beckham and other members of ‘Fergie-s Fledglings-, including some of United-s greatest ever players in Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, were meticulously handled and gradually exposed to first team football. The end products are there for all to see. And Heart could have the chance to blend John van ‘t Schip-s Ajax model with components of Manchester United.
That-s on the pitch. Off it, the benefits are equally valuable and perhaps the break Melbourne Heart need.
The comparisons with Victory are somewhat unfair (Victory are the benchmark club in the A-League), yet they do tell a story of a fledgling club battling to stake its claim for a generous portion of Melbourne-s sporting landscape.
When it comes to city bragging rights, Heart has the edge over Victory with a 3-1 head-to-head lead, yet despite its on-field dominance against its rival, its focus on community engagement and an average home attendance of 7,464 so far this season is only comparable with one-city teams like Adelaide United (8,869), Wellington Phoenix (9,269) and Perth Glory (9,594), some still unfairly judge Heart-s overall efforts to penetrate the Melbourne market as a failure.
Signing one of the biggest global brands will go some way to levelling the playing field with the big boys in blue, and the quandary, albeit in the short-term, to getting more bums in seats will be solved.
For Heart to truly maximise the ‘Beckham Effect-, however, let-s hope his stay is greater than a 10-match guest stint. That is, if he decides to come at all.
The views expressed in this article are purely those of the author and do not reflect those of FFA or the Hyundai A-League.