Los Angeles may have gained David Beckham for £128m but in the end all it took was Sylvester Stallone and 34,000 bemused Scousers to prove that Americans and football can mix.
The 60-year-old habitué of Hollywood's red carpets put in an appearance on the green turf of Everton Football Club yesterday to prove his affection for the beautiful game. Such was his enthusiasm after seeing 22 men chasing a ball around Goodison Park for 90 minutes on a chilly January afternoon, Stallone completed a unique double by doing a piece for The Independent about his experience.
He told reporters: "This is a legendary club. I'm used to the superficial level that we've had in America and seen it on TV but when you're there and see the impact, it's great. There's no question that I'll be coming back for another game, definitely."
Clad in the sort of padded coat more favoured by football managers than chic superstars and holding aloft a newly acquired Toffees scarf, Stallone provided a surreal warm-up act to Everton's mid-table clash with Reading as he was presented to the crowd before kick-off.
The actor, who is in Britain to promote his latest film Rocky Balboa, had previously restricted his on-pitch experience of "soccer" to a role in the 1981 film Escape to Victory about footballing PoWs. Playing an American GI turned goalkeeper, Stallone asks: "Where do I stand for a corner kick?" But yesterday, the embodiment of American manhood declared himself entranced. He said: "I've never been to Liverpool and it's really heartwarming the way everyone has come along.
"When I was in Escape to Victory it might as well have been made in Chinese. But the world's changing and I think there will be a big revolution in America over football."
The A-list fan, who had been invited to the match by his business partner Robert Earl, an Everton shareholder, said he believed Beckham, who signed last week for the Los Angeles team LA Galaxy, was the man to lead this revolution.
Stallone said: "I am sure that, in America, David Beckham will be received as a superstar, no question about that. He has the looks, the whole thing. He will be bring a tremendous amount of interest and supporters to the sport. Twenty per cent of America is Latino and the thing they live for is soccer. With Beckham there it will really take off. I've not met him but I might put him in Rambo and chase him around the jungle for a couple of months."
The actor is the latest in an improbable succession of Americans who have sampled the national game at first hand.
In 1999 Michael Jackson went to a Fulham match and in 2002, Uri Geller presented Jackson and the magician David Blaine to fans of Exeter during his tenure as co-chairman of the Devon club.Reuse content