PARIS — In a dazzling career filled with riches and titles, David Beckham is taking his globe-trotting soccer tour to one of the most alluring destinations of all.
The 37-year-old midfielder signed a five-month contract with Paris Saint-Germain on Thursday, and has agreed to essentially play for free. He will donate his salary to a children’s charity.
“It’s one of the things we talked about from the start, but this all happened so quick,” said Beckham, who did not disclose how much he will be paid or which group will get the money. “I thought what a great idea it would be that the salary would go to a children’s charity in Paris.”
The former England captain chose the ambitious French club after rejecting offers from other teams. The move came as the transfer window was starting to close and marks the latest step in a career that has seen Beckham win titles with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Los Angeles Galaxy.
“Every club I have played for throughout the world, I have been successful with. I have been successful with Manchester United, and I have always said that I would never want to play for another English club,” Beckham said. “It’s the team that I support, that I always dreamt of playing for.”
Beckham recently finished a six-year stint with the Galaxy in Major League Soccer. Whether he can still be a force in European soccer is uncertain, especially with so many talented players on a PSG team that has cost nearly $366 million to assemble since its Qatari owners took charge in June 2011.
“I am very lucky. I am 37 years old and I got offered a lot of offers, more offers now than I have probably had in my career, at my age,” Beckham said. “I am very honored about that. I chose Paris because I can see what the club are trying to do, the players the club are trying to bring in. It’s an exciting city, always has been, always will be.”
The immaculately dressed Beckham was a model of elegance and calm as camera crews and photographers jostled for position amid the frenzy. He joked that he feels much younger than his age.
“To be the elder statesman, I’m very proud of that,” he said. “No matter what my age is, I still feel 21 years old — most days.”
Beckham’s deal runs out in June but he intends to keep playing, although whether that will be with PSG remains to be decided. He is, however, eager to have a long-term role at the club.
“We slightly brushed over it, a long-term partnership is what we have looked for,” he said. “Short term is playing, but long term is something we are very proud to be part of this organization that will grow and become one of the biggest in Europe.”
Beckham was close to joining PSG last year, discussing a potential move with a club desperately chasing a big name to match its sudden glamour and seemingly endless funds from its Qatari backers.
But the move fell through and PSG moved on to other targets, landing striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and AC Milan teammate Thiago Silva as well as Napoli winger Ezequiel Lavezzi and Brazilian prodigy Lucas.
“I felt last year that I still had something to achieve in Los Angeles. I won the championship in the last year of my contract,” said Beckham, adding that the time was not right. “So we parked it and decided that right now is the right time because I was at the end of my contract last year. I accepted one more year in Los Angeles, I won another championship, another trophy in Los Angeles and I believe it was the right time to leave.”
He said the agreement was finally sealed overnight. And shortly before noon Thursday, he made the short flight from London to Paris.
“Right now, I have a few things to sort out with my children and the schooling and a few other things,” he said. “I have been training at Arsenal. My fitness won’t take long to get up to speed. I definitely won’t be fit for next Friday. A few weeks and I’ll be up to speed.”
Beckham said he was enticed by putting his salary to work in a novel way.
“It’s something I’m not sure has been done before, and it’s something I’m very passionate about, children and the charity side of things, and so are the club,” he said. “We came together and it’s something special.”
For the time being, Beckham will stay in a hotel, with his family staying in London.
“I think it’ll be easier for me,” he said. “Whatever’s easiest for me and the family when they come to watch me.”
On the field, other challenges await. One of them is free kicks, Beckham’s specialty. The high-scoring Ibrahimovic is around for such duties, but Beckham says he has experience in such matters.
“If I get the chance, then I’m sure we will share that thing. Whoever fancies it,” Beckham said. “I’ve done it in the past. I’ve been in teams with Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo and (Zinedine) Zidane — trying to take a free kick off Roberto Carlos is pretty difficult. I expect with Ibra, it will be exactly the same.”