His representatives have denied the media reports, but by all accounts, David Beckham is headed to Paris St. Germain, where he will be paid a salary double what he made with the Los Angeles Galaxy. At 36 and with a recent history of injuries, Beckham’s value to PSG is debatable. But as the French great Michel Platini, now president of UEFA, famously said, if Beckham is coming to Paris, it isn’t to play soccer.

Beckham is part of a game of geopolitics that involves France and Qatar at the highest levels.

Qatar is scheduled to host the 2022 World Cup and needs to legitimize its place as a player on the international soccer scene.

Just as they bought the World Cup, the Qatari royals have set out to buy everything that is big and beautiful in the world of soccer.

For the first time ever, Barcelona — the best team in the world by a mile — has agreed to accept money to give someone the right to put its name on the front of its jersey. That someone is something called the Qatar Foundation, operated by the Qatar government, and the amount is $230 million over five years.

The inside connection: Barcelona president Sandro Rosell, whose sports marketing agency, Bonus Sports Marketing, helped establish the Aspire Football Dreams program that is believed to have done much of Qatar’s grassroots bidding on its World Cup 2022 campaign.

In the case of Paris St. Germain, the Qatari crown prince, Sheik Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, has gone one step further and bought a 70 percent stake in the club through Qatar Sports Investments.

On the television front, Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-owned Arab broadcaster, has moved into France and started buying up soccer rights: French cable rights to Ligue 1 games each Friday and Sunday and most recently the UEFA Champions League and overseas rights to Ligue 1 matches.

Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the chairman of Qatar Sports Investments and the person responsible for running PSG, is also the head of sports at Al-Jazeera.

The Qatari-French link goes to the top of the French government, where President Nicolas Sarkozyhas developed close ties to the Qatari royals.

According to the French magazine So Foot, Sarkozy organized a meeting on Nov. 23, 2010 — nine days before the World Cup 2022 was awarded — at which were present Platini, Al-Thani andSebastien Bazin, the European representative of Colony Capital, the American investment firm that owned PSG. The subject: Qatar’s possible investment in PSG.

Platini denies his 2022 vote for Qatar — one of the European votes the USA coveted — was on orders from Sarkozy, but let’s put it this way. He would have had a lot of explaining to do if he returned to Paris and the USA had won.

So why Beckham?

PSG surely doesn’t need him on the field. Yes, he enjoyed the best of his five seasons with the Galaxy, helping it win the MLS title, but he was given a very defined role in the middle of midfield to take advantage of what he could do and not do.

But Beckham will struggle in Ligue 1, a league that puts a premium on athleticism. Platini was blunt about the Englishman’s move to PSG.

“I love this player but he is not the footballer he was,” said Platini. “And if he comes to Paris now, it will be to do something other than football.”

Beckham is a natural fit for the Qatar Sports Investments, a player whose worldwide fame far exceeds what he has accomplished on the field in his career.

During the World Cup 2018/22 race that pitted Qatar against England in opposing camps, Beckham was about the only person involved in the English bid effort who came of it with his reputation enhanced.

“David Beckham is bigger than sport,” Al-Khelaifi told L’Equipe. “He is an ambassador, a brand, an example for others.” Then Al-Khelaifi added, “He is also and still a very good soccer player whose age isn’t a problem.”

Like Barcelona, Brand Beckham legitimizes Brand Qatar.
by Paul Kennedy


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