The natural conclusion of David Beckham's American adventure arrived at the final whistle of Los Angeles' MLS Cup triumph last weekend.
Beckham completed the last competitive match of his five-year deal with the Galaxy by lifting the Philip F. Anschutz trophy on the field at the Home Depot Center. His influential performance on the night provided the perfect cap to a tumultuous spell in southern California.
Not even the best scriptwriters in nearby Hollywood could concoct a more appropriate ending: Beckham completes his always controversial and occasionally rocky Galaxy tenure in the same way he finished his spells at Manchester United and Real Madrid and then dashes off to meet his next challenge.
Reality – and all of the complications that come with it – may prompt Beckham to contradict that potential fairytale ending and extend his Galaxy stay by another year or two.
Not that he should. Beckham has accomplished all he has set out to do and quite a bit more during his time in the United States. The past five years haven't always flattered Beckham or his commitment to this project and haven't always followed the proper plan, but they have ultimately yielded success on all fronts. It is time for Beckham to explore new horizons as he winds down his career.
From a financial and a footballing perspective, the next step should see Beckham depart for Paris Saint-Germain soon after he returns from the Galaxy's trip to Asia.
The 36-year-old midfielder surely wouldn't start every match for the French title chasers, but the move still appears alluring for competitive reasons.
He could keep fit through the spring (more on the perils of that choice later) and take a bit of time off in June before presumably featuring for Team GB in the Olympics next July. Beckham doesn't need the petrodollars on offer in the French capital, but he may just crave one last shot in one of Europe's top leagues before he retires from the game.
New destinations and themes also have a way of fueling the business of Brand Beckham. The current will-he-or-won't-he drama builds buzz and helps the already booming business stay relevant to the front pages. A new club means new commercial opportunities to explore, new shirts to sell and new stories to tell. Those avenues are not nearly as expansive or as profitable if Beckham stays the course in southern California and travels to exotic destinations on a postseason tour every other year.
The commercial and the financial advantages may lay in Paris or some other alluring destination, but there are two significant issues that could keep Beckham in a Galaxy kit next season: the aforementioned desire to suit up in the Olympics and the life carved out in southern California over the past five years.
While Beckham would benefit from playing at a higher level as he mounts his case for a place at the Olympics, he might help himself more by sticking to the more favorable MLS calendar. Beckham spent much of the 2011 campaign fighting through a persistent back complaint and a series of other maladies. At this stage of his career, he may struggle to cope with the physical demands presented by a January transfer and another five months of potentially intermittent league play.
By remaining with the Galaxy, Beckham could rest for a month or two after returning from Asia, ease through preseason, step out occasionally and train his sights on the Olympics. Los Angeles has already declared its willingness to accommodate Beckham's Olympic wishes – and its pliancy on these matters remains unquestioned after several controversial winter loan and training spells – during the regular season. Those accommodations may actually matter more to fulfilling Beckham's Olympic dream than where he actually plies his trade.
Location may also matter more to Beckham now than it has in the past. The former England captain has entrenched his family in southern California over the past years and has spoken frequently about how much he enjoys living there. A move to Paris or any other destination simply may not suit Beckham or his family on a personal level at this juncture.
Beckham's vast resources allow him the latitude to make decisions solely predicated on location or specific personal goals. It is by no means certain that Beckham will choose to do so given his track record in these matters and his occasionally spotty allegiance to the Galaxy, but the fact that he has yet to unveil his next move suggests that this natural point of departure may not seem as straightforward to him as it does to everyone else.
Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSsoccer.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter by clicking here.