Michelle Kaufman

Michelle Kaufman: David Beckham’s big plans seem feasible

Cristiano Ronaldo playing for a Miami Major League Soccer team? Radamel Falcao?

It sounds far-fetched, but after talking to David Beckham on Wednesday, I am convinced it is not entirely out of the question. Beckham said during an interview with the Miami Herald that he plans to bring a first-class team to Miami because he knows fans here won’t settle for anything less.

Will elite players leave European leagues to play for MLS? Beckham says they will, and he certainly has the connections (and the deep pockets) to lure them here.

“I do believe top players will come, particularly players from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, all over Latin America,” he said. “They love Miami. Who wouldn’t? I have already taken calls from players who want to live here and play here. One thing is saying it, and another is actually doing it. But there is interest.”

Asked whether Colombian star Falcao is the type of player he would pursue, he said: “I love Falcao as a player. He’s such a huge talent, and obviously loved by many, many people in this part of the world. I would never mention about any particular player because obviously I can’t, but yeah, there will be players from all different parts of the world.”

MLS allows each team up to three “designated players,” who are paid above each team’s salary cap. That is how Beckham joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007. He hopes the rules will relax by the time he is searching for players for a 2017 Miami team.

“There are restrictions, but anything’s possible,” he said. “At the moment, there can be three overpaid players from the wage cap. Whether that will change in 2017, when hopefully the stadium will be built and the team will be going into the league, we’ll see. But, at the moment, it’s three. I think it can go to four.

“We’re going to run a very good team. It’s not just about the top players we’re bringing in. Of course, we want to bring in some great names, personalities and characters. But I’m looking forward to building the academy, that side of the club, too, because I know how important that is.”

He also is determined to create a festive atmosphere around the stadium on game day, which is why he favors at waterfront, downtown site.

“We want to bring not just a soccer stadium, but a public events area where people can go hang out, have fun, have dinner, lunch, a real social atmosphere,” he said. “Because, coming from Europe, that’s what we’re used to. That’s what happens on game day. We want to create that kind of atmosphere. And if I didn’t think we could create that, then I wouldn’t be bringing it to Miami. But I do. I am so confident we can do that.”

Beckham envisions throngs of Miami fans gathering near the stadium before and after games.

“Seattle is the model that a lot of teams look at, and that’s something that teams aspire to be,” he said of the Sounders, who averaged 40,000-plus fans and have a proud tradition of thousands of fans marching together to games. “The league needs clubs like that.”

MLS is still considered “a step below” the elite leagues such as English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A and Germany’s Bundesliga. But Beckham believes the U.S. league is getting stronger every year and perceptions overseas are changing.

“Before I moved to the Galaxy nine years ago, we never really heard about any of the teams, never really saw anything on the news,” Beckham said. “Now, there’s constant feeds on SkySports, about certain players, and games. That’s been a great thing.

“I also think that in the last five years, I’ve seen a change where you’ve got Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Barcelona all coming to the U.S. for training and games. I know the managers of the majority of those teams and I know that if there wasn’t competition and challenge here, they wouldn’t bring them to play here.

“But we’re talking about a league that’s only been going for 20 years. It takes time to get to the level of these European leagues. But will it get there? Yeah, I 100 percent believe they will. And Miami will have a team everyone in the world recognizes.”

Will his waterfront stadium be built? Will Miami one day be known for superstar soccer players? Time will tell.

In the meantime, it’s fun to Dream It Like Beckham.