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Football: Beckham arrival creates headache for PSG coach

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The unveiling of David Beckham as a Paris Saint-Germain player was undoubtedly a major media event and marketing ploy but what can the Englishman, now 37, actually offer on the pitch?

The fact that Beckham has signed only a five-month contract indicates that football is not the priority, especially as the French season finishes in mid-May and the player has admitted that he will need "a few weeks" before he is fully fit.

But even when he does take to the field, it will not be the Beckham of his peak.

After all, the former Manchester United and Real Madrid player left Europe for the MLS in 2007 -- although he has had two loan spells at AC Milan since then -- and last played for England in 2009.

"Physically I feel good, as if I were 21. I've not lost much pace because I never really had any," Beckham joked on Thursday.

However, some remain to be convinced.

Christian Gourcuff, the veteran coach of Ligue 1 club Lorient, told AFP he was far from thrilled at a signing which had "nothing to do with sport", pointing out that Ligue 1 makes "distinctive physical demands" on players.

"I am no MLS specialist but when I see the players who do well there, I think the level is some way below that of the leading European leagues," he said.

Reynald Denoueix, who won the French title as a coach with Nantes in 2001 and later coached Real Sociedad in Spain, is less sceptical and believes Beckham can still offer something, as long as he is in good shape physically.

"His qualities are his passing ability and the work he does for the team," he said. "It is very good for PSG but he needs to be in a physical condition that allows him to find space on the field and make himself available for a pass.

"If he does not have what it takes in terms of fitness, it will be enough of a problem for him just to get the ball.

"Just because he is 37 it doesn't mean that he can't be competitive. Others have proved that it is possible. But you need to have exceptional aptitudes."

Questions remain as to where coach Carlo Ancelotti will use Beckham and how high up the pecking order he will stand in a stellar squad.

"I don't know where he will be but, when you look at the course his career has taken in recent seasons, I think it will be very difficult for him to have much of an impact," Gourcuff assessed.

It seems highly unlikely that he will be given the chance to play on the right of midfield, where he first made his name at Manchester United.

Beckham remains a fantastic crosser and his ability to strike a dead ball will be an immense asset but he has never been great at beating his man and is unlikely to start now.

Besides, the 4-4-2 formation that Ancelotti has used, largely successfully, in the last couple of months, requires wide players of a very different profile.

Jeremy Menez, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Lucas Moura are all speed merchants who like to take on their man.

In other words, the exact opposite of the "Spice Boy."

As a result, the only remaining possibility looks like playing him in a deeper, central role, where he enjoyed success during his four-year spell at Real Madrid, and where his vision and precision passing may be most useful.

"But in that case, there is still a problem of how well he complements those around him. You need to be able to defend too," said Gourcuff, imagining the possibility of a partnership with the tireless Blaise Matuidi.

The idea of a three-man midfield in which the duties are more evenly shared is a possibility and would probably be the best solution for Beckham's ageing legs.

But Ancelotti abandoned such a formation when PSG's form dipped in November.

Another factor against Beckham is that his mooted move to Paris last year collapsed partly because Ancelotti could not guarantee him a minimum amount of playing time.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130201/football-beckham-arrival-creates-headache-psg-coach