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Five years ago, the landscape of soccer in America irreversibly changed. David Beckham, fresh off leading the (at the time) wealthiest soccer club in the world, Real Madrid, to their 31st league title, made a record breaking deal with Major League Soccer?s Los Angeles Galaxy. The deal, which would see Beckham receive $250 million over the course of five years, was the first of its kind for the league, and was considered risky when compared to the overspending that killed the North American Soccer League of the 1970?s and 1980?s. The financially conservative managing of the MLS had been preparing the league for a transition that would allow for the acquisition of superstar players. Beckham was the first to come over, since his arrival the MLS has brought in nearly a dozen other world superstars most notably ? Rafael Marquez, Fredrik Ljunberg, Tim Cahill, Torsten Frings, and Thierry Henry. The only problem? With the exception of Thierry Henry, no one outside of the soccer world would recognize any of those names.

Beckham?s $250 million contract mentioned above is notable for two reasons. First, because the $50 million per year he made pushed him into the highest earning athlete in America. Period. More than Lebron, more than Manning, and (thankfully) more than A-Rod (who even Yankees fans would agree is a waste of clean oxygen in NYC). Secondly, Beckham?s contract was only 8% covered by the Los Angeles Galaxy as a team? Wait a minute, so where did the rest come from? Good question. Turns out that $46 million a year was actually his minimum potential income from endorsements. The deal was just made out as $250 million in order to maximize media impact, but the crazy part is the ploy worked!

Upon Beckham?s arrival for his first game the MLS received more attention than it ever had before, on top of that the LA Galaxy immediately reaped the benefits of their high profile signing by receiving a 5-year sponsorship deal with Herbalife, a nutrition company worth Beckham?s salary, eleven THOUSAND new season ticket holders, and an influx of new fans.

What is it that makes Beckham stand out from the other names on the aforementioned superstars? list? It could be any number of things. His superstar pop-singer wife Posh Spice of the spice girls; his undeniable good looks, or the movie named after him. Because in all fairness, from an experienced career of watching footba ? er ? I mean soccer, Beckham is the least skilled superstar on the list. From a strictly soccer standpoint, Beckham can only play with one foot, doesn?t have blazing speed, and isn?t a threat score during the run of play. The only thing he really brings to the pitch, is his world famous free kicks, which really can?t create more than 10-15 goals per year, which could easily be replaced by a player making much less.

With the closing of his American career, and soon his soccer career, as it looks like David will only play one more year of football (probably in England) before hanging up the boots, it?s remarkable how endorsable a player like Beckham is.

Whatever it is that makes Beckham ? well ? Beckham, has made him a brand name at Adidas (literally there are cleats named after him), landed him endorsements with companies like Coca-Cola, IBM, and EA Sports, has inspired a generation of soccer players to change their hair every month, revitalized soccer in America, and raises millions for charities every year. The combination of variables that created superstar David Beckham has made him into the most marketable man in the world, and his career is nearly over.

Image Credit: AP

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