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Feb 1, 2013

French opinion on Beckham move divided

After overcoming the initial shock of seeing David Beckham land in Ligue 1, opinion is divided between players and pundits over whether he will be prove anything more than a publicity stunt for Paris Saint-Germain.

David Beckham flashes his million dollar smile moments after announcing he intended to donate his salary to a children's charity
David Beckham's move to PSG has become a huge talking point

Minutes after the announcement the former England captain had signed a five-month deal at the Parc des Princes, his number 32 shirt was already on sale in the club shop for a little over €100.

However, former Chelsea defender Frank Leboeuf believes Beckham can still contribute as a footballer - as well as selling shirts - particularly in helping coach Carlo Ancelotti unify a still-fractious PSG dressing room.

"I'm sure he'll be an incredible example. If he doesn't play, he won't say a word. That will incite others to do the same," Leboeuf told Le Parisien. "I'm not concerned about his place in the dressing room either, notably alongside Ibra. It's not as if some wannabe star has arrived after that of a true star. He can bring stability to the squad."

Leboeuf's former international team-mate Fabien Barthez refuted suggestions Beckham, who the goalkeeper played alongside at Manchester United, would offer little on the pitch, despite turning 38 in May.

"He's still a real footballer. To think anything other than that would be a lack of respect for [PSG coach Carlo] Ancelotti," Barthez told Le Parisien.

Former Champions League winner Ludovic Giuly, himself playing for Lorient in Ligue 1 aged 36, is also confident Beckham can help lay a lie to accepted French football wisdom.

"In France, when you pass 33, you're finished. In England, there's not that psychological barrier. If he's taken the risk to sign for PSG it's because he knows he can play there. Let's stop all this prejudice," he said.

Beckham himself admitted he would take some weeks to "get up to speed" when he was unveiled to the press on Thursday evening, and will certainly not feature when PSG bid to extend their lead at the top of the Ligue 1 table against Toulouse on Friday.

However, despite not having played since ending his contract with Los Angeles Galaxy in early December, he impressed Bacary Sagna while training alongside the France international with Arsenal in January.

"He didn't have any problems. You can feel all his experience. His right foot is precise, his passes are still of quality and physically he seemed to be in good shape," the former Auxerre defender was quoted as saying in Le Parisien.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger was equally gushing in his praise in the same paper.

"He arrives early in the morning, works very well and continues after the training session,” he said. “The players, especially the youngsters, admire him and listen to his advice, which is always positive. He's got enormous charisma. He also has one incredible quality, he's been able to get the most out of his career. He's managed to do that because he loves football. He's ambitious and very professional."

Rennes captain Romain Danze tweeted his excitement at Beckham's arrival on his official account. "Thank you PSG for giving us the chance to play against all these stars," he said.

However, the positive vibes emanating from Ligue 1 players and ex-pros was not matched by the French media. L'Equipe's pun headline, translated with difficulty into English - but which included the word 'show' - unequivocally sent the message that they feel "football's glamour icon", as they described Beckham, is no more than a fairground attraction. Inside, the sports daily declared: “With the signature of the 'Spice Boy' David Beckham yesterday, PSG pulled off a sensational publicity stunt. The sporting interest of the move is less clear.”

Playing on the neologism 'Zlataner', which means 'to dominate' and has come into being since the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic at PSG last summer, the paper's cartoon artist had the Swede 'Beckhamised' and wearing a PSG shirt in which the 'S' had been turned into a dollar sign. The paper's counterpart in the French capital, Le Parisien, went with: “Paris gives itself a royal gift” and termed the move “an incredible publicity stunt for the club and its Qatari owners”.

"It's an excellent means to develop the image of PSG, and with it Ligue 1, in Japan and the USA in particular," Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas told Le Parisien. "The international TV rights of our league are naturally going to be reinforced. I also think the arrival of Beckham will see more women going to stadiums and watching games. Honestly, it's a really good thing from which everyone will benefit."

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