Beckham continues to take centre stage
David Beckham says he is "not finished yet". But at the age of 36 he knows that his next playing contract could be his last.
Although he has been offered another year with the Los Angeles Galaxy and there is talk of a possible return to the Premier League, it seems that Paris Saint Germain, now owned by Qatar Sports Investments, could be the next stop on his tour of the world's most glamorous cities.
It is remarkable that despite his age and the effects of last year's Achilles injury, the level of interest in Beckham seems undiminshed. It is matched only by his apparent hunger to carry on playing at the highest level possible.
Critics would argue his attempts to string out his playing career are nothing more than a cynical ploy to keep the cash flowing in from his commercial deals.
But having again topped the Forbes footballers' rich list in 2011 with earnings of £24m, he hardly needs the money. So what is driving him to carry on?
The prospect of leading the first British football team to play in an Olympics since 1960 is clearly part of it. Beckham is proud of representing his country and was touched by the role and influence he had in the final days of London's successful bid for the 2012 Games. Talking to him off camera it is obvious he is still hurt by the failure of England's 2018 World Cup bid last year.
Beckham told me in our interview that he still feels like a kid when it comes to playing for and leading your country, and that it is his dream: to play for Team GB in an Olympics being staged so close to where he grew up.
But the former England captain clearly wants to keep going beyond 2012. When I asked him whether he had an age in mind for retirement, he joked about carrying on until he was 49. But he must have seen what his old Manchester United team-mate Ryan Giggs has done and feel he can match that.
Beckham is still playing a major role at LA Galaxy in the USA. Photo: Getty
If he does manage to land a big contract with Paris Saint Germain back in Europe then it will certainly prove the doubters wrong who said LA was more about showbusiness than football. So as he approaches what could be his last few weeks with the Galaxy, how has Beckham's big American project gone?
When I came here five years ago to write a piece for my old paper the Daily Telegraph, the notion that one man could change a nation's sporting habits was pretty widely dismissed. Five years on, it's clear football, or soccer as the Americans would have it, has made some progress.
There are seven new Major League Soccer (MLS) franchises with the prospect of another New York team to come next year. Nine new stadiums are in operation and the value of those franchises has increased too. To buy a team now it will cost about $80-$100m compared to $40m or $50m a couple of years ago.
Attendances and ticket revenues are also going up, both at the LA Galaxy, and across the MLS. Other big names like Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane have followed Beckham to America, but there is still a perception - rightly or wrongly - that MLS is a lucrative and glamorous retirement home for fading stars.
European and Premier League teams are growing increasingly popular, a fact reflected by the increase in the value of their television rights here. It's the same for the World Cup with Fifa recently securing a $1.2bn deal with Fox and Telemundo for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. That hasn't yet rubbed off on MLS which, by way of contrast, makes just $10m a year from selling their national TV rights.
Football still struggles to punch through. To illustrate the point the front page lead in today's LA Times is on businessman Frank McCourt's decision to finally sell the Dodgers baseball team after a protracted financial battle to retain the franchise.
The Galaxy play their biggest game of the season so far tomorrow and are three games from winning the MLS Cup play-offs - the equivalent of the Premier League title. That doesn't even merit a mention in the sports section. Speak to local sports journalists and sports business experts here and they will tell you that while MLS has come on, it's not necessarily had much to do with Beckham.
Until this season - his best since he joined the Galaxy - he has struggled with injuries and indifferent form. He has also been accused of spending too much time back in Europe on loan with AC Milan and trying to retain his place in the England team. "David Beckham has definitely made an impact as a celebrity and in LA it's all about hanging out with the stars," Nick Green, a sports columnist on the LA Daily News tells me. "But he has not really made an impact as a soccer player.'
To be fair to Beckham he has always been pretty realistic about what difference he would make. Here's what he said back in 2007: "I'm not silly enough to think I'm going to change the whole culture because it's not going to happen. But I do have a belief that soccer can go to a different level."
Looking back he now says he feels genuine progress has been made but there is still a long way to go. There is no question that is true in a country obsessed with the big four of baseball, American football, basketball and ice hockey. But during his five years in LA, Beckham has made his mark. And it is clear that despite coming to the end of his career he still wants to do more in the game.