What was better: Brand Beckham…or the player?

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Whenever anyone mentions the name David Beckham, what are the first thoughts that pop into your mind?

Glamor, fashion, celebrity, icon, superstar, Hollywood…soccer?

The main thing we should remember Beckham for, the soccer, often comes way down the list.

So, what is better: Brand Beckham? Or Beckham the soccer player?

Let’s start with the brand. Ever since he married a Spice girl, Beckham knew his life would never be the same. But after years of modelling expensive garments, fragrances, watches and just about anything else you can imagine, the brand behind David and Victoria Beckham is now a relentless money-making machine. In his early years it was never like that. But from promising player to international star to veteran to father-figure, Beckham’s stardom has grown exponentially.

(More: Beckham announces his retirement from football)

His switch from Real Madrid to the LA Galaxy in 2007 was said by many to fall in line with Victoria’s fashion line and her ambitions to become an A-list celebrity in Hollywood.

Beckham came to the USA to grow soccer with his stardom and millions, if not billions, of adoring fans across the globe. The brand has been out of control for sometime now. His fame and fortune helped his hometown of London get the 2012 Olympic games and he played a huge part in the opening ceremony. Everyone wants to see him, talk about him and judge him. Just look at the furor his retirement today has caused. Websites, social media sites and message boards have gone into meltdown. Would this all have happened if some decent soccer player from East London had retired?

Hold up, hold up. Hang on a minute. Beckham isn’t just a “decent” player. He is one of the best.

(More: Beckham’s top five moments in U.S. Soccer)

Certainly he is one of the greatest players England has ever produced. Yet that goes unnoticed, unappreciated and undervalued when the name “Beckham” is uttered to anyone, on any street, in any country on this planet.

Quite simply, growing up in England when Beckham was making his ascent through the ranks at United, the baby faced lad from Leytonstone — with the squeaky cockney accent and the copious amount of Brylcreem stuck to his head — was a sensation. He could pass like no other, he could bend the ball around any obstacle and his work rate, oh my, it was like he made every tackle and long-bursting run as if his life depended on it.

(More: What they’re saying about Beckham’s retirement)

The goals, they were sublime. The goal from his own half against Wimbledon in 1996 put him on the soccer map. A last-gasp free kick to take England to the World Cup against Greece. His belter against Wales in a World Cup qualifier in 2004. A lob into an empty net against the Kansas City Wizards. The list goes on and on.

Beckham twice finished runner-up as the FIFA World player of the year. He lost to Rivaldo in 1999 and Luis Figo in 2001. So yeah, he is much more than a “decent” player.

Only time will tell what lies ahead for Beckham. Could he become an owner of an MLS franchise? Could he become a manager? Will he step away entirely from the game? Or will he make a dramatic comeback from retirement? Who knows.

But when we look back at Beckham’s career how will we remember him? That is the biggest question of all.

Will it be for the brand or will it be the player? I’ll let you discuss that. But as a proud Englishman, I hope it’s the latter.

PHOTOS: The life and time of David Beckham

Bayern signs Germany midfielder Goretzka from rival Schalke

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich signed Germany midfielder Leon Goretzka on Friday on a free transfer from Bundesliga rival Schalke effective from next season.

Bayern said the 22-year-old Goretzka signed a four-year deal from July 1 through June 2022.

Schalke, which Goretzka joined in 2013 from hometown club Bochum, said the player informed the club this week of his wish to join Bayern when his contract expired.

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“We think we did everything in the last months to convince Leon to stay with us,” Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel said. “In the end, it wasn’t enough.”

Schalke had long been engaged in trying to get Goretzka to extend his contract, but was aware of reported interest from Bayern, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Liverpool.

“We’re very happy that Leon Goretzka, a German international with big potential, has decided in favor of Bayern despite big-name international competitors. This way it’s ensured that Leon Goretzka remains in the Bundesliga,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.

Goretzka scored 19 goals and set up 13 more in 130 appearances for Schalke.

The club had previously expressed its displeasure with Bayern making public statements about its player after Goretzka was praised by sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic and coach Jupp Heynckes.

Heidel said “we don’t need to hear every day from the Munich people how good our player is.”

Goretzka has six goals in 12 games for Germany.

Pele hospitalized overnight in Brazil

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The most famous soccer player in the world had a scare last night as he was hospitalized in Brazil for “severe exhaustion.”

Pele, 77, was set to travel to London this weekend to be honored by the Football Writers Association, though it looks like that trip has now been postponed.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, Pele collapsed and was taken to a hospital in Brazil where he has undergone a series of tests which appear to point to severe exhaustion,” a FWA statement said. “He remains on fluids while doctors monitor his recovery.

“Thankfully, there is no suggestion of anything more serious than exhaustion.”

Here’s to hoping Pele makes a full recovery.

[MORE: USMNT centerback heads to Championship club]

USMNT centerback Carter-Vickers heads to Ipswich Town on loan

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Cameron Carter-Vickers has a new club to call home for the next five months or so after a rough first half of the season.

Tottenham announced Friday morning that it had loaned the U.S. Men’s National Team centerback to Championship club Ipswich Town for the rest of the season. Carter-Vickers spent the first five months of the season at fellow Championship side Sheffield United, starting 17 times though he struggled recently as Sheffield won just one game he played in during the month of December, losing three and drawing one.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Carter-Vickers was then recalled earlier this week and now has a new home with a mid-table Championship club, with a new chance to impress. Hopefully Carter-Vickers can recover his form and continue to grow, potentially latching on to another Premier League side next year or breaking into the Tottenham first team.

There’s another interesting American tie-in to this. Carter-Vickers appears to be a short-term replacement for Ipswich Town’s Tommy Smith, who the club states is headed to join the Colorado Rapids ahead of the 2018 MLS season.

Sanchez, Mkhitaryan transfer still up in the air

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The player-swap/trade/transfer between Arsenal and Manchester United still appears to be heading towards completion, but it was further delayed Friday.

Multiple reports in England state that while Alexis Sanchez seems set to move to Manchester United, Henrik Mkhitaryan has yet to agree to move the other way, as talks between the player’s agent and Arsenal continue. Mkhitaryan was seen training at Manchester United’s practice facility on Friday, and because the latest delay, both players would be unable to debut for their new teams this weekend after missing the Premier League registration deadline.

[MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks]

Arsenal hosts Crystal Palace Manchester United travels to Burnley, both on Saturday at 10 a.m. (Watch Arsenal live on CNBC, Manchester United live on NBCSN, and both live on NBCSports.com)

The London Evening Standard reports that Mkhitaryan would command a $242,000-per-week salary but that as of Friday morning he had yet to undergo a medical for the transfer. Arsenal reportedly still wants a transfer fee included for Sanchez, while Manchester United would prefer to just swap the two players.

It’s also looking as if that won’t be Arsenal’s only business in the transfer market. While it seemed like a far-fetched rumor at first, the links between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Arsenal have only grown stronger in the past few days, and the Gabon international appears to be in the Gunners sights. It appears that Bordeaux’s young striker Malcolm is now off the table.