Draped in a Union flag and the Stars and Stripes as he left the pitch, David Beckham finished his Major League Soccer career as a winner. Mission accomplished after six seasons in the United States, but as the former England captain plots his next move, discussions are underway to ensure that his last match with the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday was not a Hollywood ending.
As The Independent revealed last week, negotiations are taking place between Beckham and the Galaxy that are set to see him buy a 25 per cent stake in the franchise. He has an option to purchase an expansion club at a knock-down rate, but that excludes New York, the league's next target.
MLS and AEG, the Galaxy's owners, would prefer to keep the Beckham bandwagon rolling now. Even if based abroad in the coming year, he could still act as an ambassador and recruiter for the Galaxy.
The AEG president, Tim Leiweke, said last week that Beckham had already started – he is trying to persuade Kaka to leave Real Madrid and join the Galaxy as his replacement. "David has done the yeoman's work on our behalf at introducing us, getting him comfortable, getting his family comfortable, talking about LA and the organisation," said Leiweke.
As for the football: where next? The firmest interest has come from Australia, though Beckham still believes he is good enough to feature for a Champions League club and his wife, Victoria, was reportedly house-hunting in London last week.
The only certainty is his desire to continue playing for as long as his body will allow. "The feeling of making the final, the preparation, the feeling around the club — it never gets old," he said after the 3-1 MLS Cup win over Houston Dynamo at the Home Depot Center. "I'm 37 and I've been able to play in quite a few finals and championship games, and I still love it like I did when I won my first.
"I just hope I've brought a bit of interest to the game. If that's the single thing that I've done, great. But I think the foundations are there now in this league. It will continue to grow."
Houston threatened to spoil the party by taking the lead through Calen Carr shortly before half-time, but an Omar Gonzalez header and penalties from Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane ensured the scoreline reflected the Galaxy's superiority.
It was Beckham's second MLS title –the Galaxy also beat Houston last year. It briefly looked as if he would take the late penalty that made the score 3-1, but he passed on the chance to close his US career with an iconic moment. After an energetic performance replete with his trademark precise passing and set-pieces, Beckham was substituted in injury time to cheers in a stadium filled with banners from fans thanking him for his contribution.
Quite a contrast from as recently as three years ago, when he was heckled and his commitment to MLS was questioned after a loan spell with Milan. But as at Manchester United and Real Madrid, Beckham ended as a champion.