Having already unloaded on Beckham in Sports Illustrated writer Grant Wahl's new book, "The Beckham Experiment," due out Tuesday, Donovan wants to set the record straight in person….
"I'm not going to apologize for the way I felt," he told The Times. "What I feel badly about is that I should have been a man and told David how I felt as opposed to telling a reporter.
Donovan admits that while he was calling out Beckham for not being a leader, he was not being a leader himself. Ultimately, this really was a clash of soccer cultures, but thanks to a couple of “leaders” who didn’t talk or act like that title, it spiraled out of control.
The Galaxy were — and are, and will be — Landon Donovan’s team. He is the best known, and arguably best, American player of his generation. That is his locker room at Home Depot Center.
Then came Beckham, he of the lofty European credentials, who wanted the captain’s armband, and got it. His credentials made him a defacto leader, and to help ease that segue he invited the team went to an expensive steakhouse — then when the bill came Beckham paid his share then passed it along.
It was a clash of soccer cultures — at Manchester United and Real Madrid, the guys at the end of the bench earn a million dollars a year or more. In America’s Major League Soccer, a lot of the guys earn about $55,000 a year. In the world Beckham was used to, it was easy for the other guys on the team to pay their share of an expensive dinner tab. In MLS culture, he was expected to pick up the tab.
He was also expected by teammates to show up to practices and games even when injured, to show support, something Beckham did not do. It may simply have been an issue of understanding the culture as much as indifference to teammates who run in very different circles.
If Donovan was a real leader, he would have sat down with Beckham that first season and laid it all out for him — put the issues on the table. Then the response is on Beckham. But instead, Donovan deferred and demurred, so the issues heated up without Beckham rally grasping them.
But he understands now, with excerpts of “The Beckham Experiment” all over the Web, where Donovan called out his Beckham. Donovan tried the “Hey, in the context of the book most of the time we say we love him” defense, but what parts did he really think the media (and book publisher) would gravitate towards? Donovan has been around the block, he is media savvy. He should have known.
Now, next week when Beckham returns to the Galaxy, Donovan will sit down with him and talk. But at this point it is too little, too late to save the Beckham experiment in Los Angeles.