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Could one man really be the equivalent of a 126 year old world wonder? Many women (and not a few men) would say yes.
The mayor of Paris hailed on Friday the signing of former England captain David Beckham for Paris St Germain as a boon for the French capital, adding to tourist attractions such as the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame cathedral.
“It is very good news which only adds to the image of Paris in the world … he is a great sporting personality with an international audience,” Bertrand Delanoe told Europe 1 radio of the 37-year-old’s move to join PSG on a five-month contract.
“It’s great for this city which is already the top tourist destination in the world and where 10 percent of jobs are in the tourist industry,” he added.
Delanoe praised Beckham’s decision to donate his PSG salary to local children charities and said the former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder would be a positive role model to youth in the poor, racially mixed suburbs of Paris.
“Football is a great working class sport – it is not a game for snobs, it is for the whole population and particularly the kids in the suburbs,” the veteran Socialist said.
Other French media commentators have been more reserved about Beckham’s arrival, questioning whether he was still fit enough after his two-decade career and seeing the move as marketing coup to cash in on his image.
Beckham shirts were already retailing for 100 euros each on the PSG website, with analysts estimating the merchandising value of the shirts alone will pull in 17 million euros.
Since taking over PSG less than two years ago, Qatar investors have spent over 200 million euros on transfers, signing Swede striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Argentine internationals Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Lavezzi as well as Brazil centre backs Thiago Silva and Alex.
Delanoe said he had no problems with the way PSG was drawing in foreign talent in its bid to become a top-flight European side, adding that the Qatari investors were “loyal to the values of Paris and the values of sport”.
Reporting by John Irish. Writing by Mark John.