David Beckham in US: He came, he sold, he conquered
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Beckham made his debut for Manchester United's first team in 1992, the year when he turned 17 and played alongside Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville for the Red Devils' winning team in the FA Youth Cup. At 21, he made his debut for England.
He helped United win six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the 1999 Champions League. Sold to Real for 35 million euros (then $41 million), he won Spain's La Liga in his fourth and final season.
By then, he had already announced he was moving to Los Angeles. While his handlers and the Galaxy hyped the deal as being worth "in excess $250 million,'' it turned out to be a $32.5 million, five-year contract. Still, he earned 50 times the league's average of $129,395 in 2008 and twice as much as any other player.
Following his first Galaxy appearance, in a friendly against Chelsea, he was given a welcoming party hosted by Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. A crowd of 46,686 showed up for his MLS debut on Aug. 9, 2007, at D.C. United.
While injuries limited his playing time, the five games he played averaged 37,659 fans – in a league where the overall average that year was 16,770. MLS jersey sales rose 780 percent.
"I don't think there's any doubt that David has increased the visibility of MLS and the sport more generally,'' U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said. "That very positive impact will be felt for many years.''
When Beckham arrived, his mind seemed to be on England as much as it was on California. He commuted back to play for the national team, hoping to make its 2010 World Cup squad, and played on loan for AC Milan in early 2009 and 2010. While in Italy, he tore his left Achilles tendon, ending his England career after 17 goals and 115 appearances – second only to goalkeeper Peter Shilton's 125.