David Beckham may be playing his last game for the LA Galaxy on Dec. 1 in MLS Cup 2012 at The Home Depot Center against the Houston Dynamo, but AEG President and CEO Tim Leiweke is adamant that the only place for the club to move in the post-Beckham era is forward.
In the second and final part of his exclusive interview with LA Galaxy Insider on Tuesday evening, Leiweke discussed the Galaxy brand and what is next for the team after David Beckham. (Part one is here.)
One of the largest spots of growth has been on the brand side where LA have grown exponentially. Last November, the Galaxy signed a 10-year $55 million television contract with Time Warner Cable Sports, the most lucrative in MLS history and in March signed a 10-year $44 million dollar sponsorship extension with Herbalife—also the most lucrative in MLS history—to be the official presenting sponsor and jersey sponsor of the Galaxy.
“We created one of the top brands in soccer in the world and I think people know the Galaxy worldwide. I’m always traveling around the world to all of our different companies and assets and I see Galaxy jerseys in China, I see Galaxy jerseys in Europe and London, so I think it’s unique that we’ve been able to take an MLS club in a country that people thought didn’t care about soccer and make it one of the more recognizable soccer brands in the world.”
“That is a credit to David and the fact that he not only put us on the map, but made a statement once we got there. That’s not going to go away, everyone always underestimates Robbie Keane, but the man is to this day still one of the top 10 scorers in the history of the Premier League and we have arguably one of the best American players who has ever played the game,” Leiweke added. “These are guys that are 31, 32 years old and they’re not going anywhere, so as much as David put us on the map, we got a team, a coach and an organization that aren’t going anywhere and we’re going to continue to grow. So as sad as I am to see David leave because he is a friend and a tremendous influence on this organization, that said, this is the right time.”
Although Beckham will depart the club next month, Leiweke reveals that conversations about the Galaxy’s next step have been ongoing for months.
“Bruce, Chris Klein and I have spent a lot of time talking in the last three or four months about where we go next. You know, we’re very fortunate to have Juninho and Sarvas. We’re not lacking for good creative midfielders and they’re young and hopefully this gives us resources to keep that nucleus intact,” said Leiweke. “We’re lucky we have Robbie Keane, he makes this a much easier transition, we’re lucky we have Landon Donovan. Frankly, I think from a player standpoint, I don’t think we miss a beat next year. I love David, but I think David would be the first to tell you that with Juninho and Sarvas, we got a pretty potent midfield, so I don’t think you’re going to see slippage here.”
And of that designated player spot? Leiweke admits that the club is going to look for the right fit, not just the first player that comes along.
“Yes, it does give us a DP slot, but don’t expect us to rush out and go fill it. We’re going to fill it with the right guy and it’s the right guy for this marketplace, the right guy for Bruce and the team that he and Chris want to build,” said Leiweke. “Chris and I have spent a lot of time talking about where we go find that next guy. It’s going to have to be the right guy not the first guy, which means maybe we’re patient for a year or two until we get the right guy.”