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Original Issue

Fleet Street Heat

"The manner of David Beckham's departure from top-class football is in keeping with the latter part of his career: an air of disappointment and money-grabbing hangs over the affair," opined The Daily Mail—and that pretty well summed up the reaction of the British tabloids to Beckham's megacontract.

The Sun mocked him with the headline, I JUST WANT TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE WITH KIDS OF AMERICA (NOTHING TO DO WITH THE £128M THEN!). And even the stories that portrayed Beckham as having a soul tended to overdo things. The News of the World said that Becks "went through such agony over his decision to move to Los Angeles that he wept tears of despair," and reported that "[he's] had to put eye packs on his eyes to reduce the swelling over the past few weeks."

When they weren't pointing out the enormity of Beckham's contract—or pondering his Kleenex usage—the tabs tended to focus on three things:

His play. The Daily Mail wrote, "[Beckham's] range of skills has shrunk so fast that his only real contribution at the World Cup was as a crosser and dead-ball specialist." The Guardian went even further. Its scathing (and hilarious) daily e-mail newsletter, The Fiver, called Beckham a "washed-up 31-year-old who, even in his sari-wearing, Brylcreemed, petulant pomp, was one of the most over-rated players ever to kick a football."

His wife. The Daily Telegraph said simply, "Posh is dragging Beckham Stateside in a last-ditch attempt to maintain their megacelebrity status." The Express reported that Victoria's agent is "trying to line her up for a role in Desperate Housewives, and a spot guest-hosting Larry King has been discussed."

And the Mail claimed that Victoria is hoping to take advantage of the Beckhams' friendship with Hollywood's most powerful couple: "She is convinced that with Tom Cruise's help she is somehow going to get her first film role, that she is going to get her own fashion show on a major network." The paper also reported that Posh dreams of having another child, who would be introduced to the world on the cover of Vanity Fair—just like Suri Cruise.

His destination. Few things elicit soccer snobbery from Brits like the American game. "Mankind has cloned sheep, walked on the moon and eradicated smallpox but nobody has yet found a formula to make Americans love the jogo bonito [beautiful game]," wrote the Mail. And The Sun had a chuckle at Beckham's new home field: "The Home Depot Center holds 27,000 and is 30 miles south of Los Angeles in the little-known town of Carson. It certainly seems a rather inglorious arena for a once great player to finish his career. Then again, if he needs any chipboard he is in the right place!"