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Football | France

Leornado with David Beckham © Action Images

'PSG focused on Beckham the player'

David Beckham may have coyly stated he expects to have a fight on his hands to take his place in Paris Saint Germain's starting line-up after his arrival this week in the City of Light.

Yet PSG's sporting director Leonardo insists the 37-year-old is not coming to make up the numbers.

"You know what he brings on the pitch – he is renowned for his professionalism – he is very rigorous with himself," said the Brazilian.

"If he has accepted this challenge it is because he figures he can rise to it on the pitch.

"For us he is a player. We are not here to have a good time or have photshoots but to win titles.

"That's what he has signed up for – and that alone."

Leonardo, who was in the dugout during one of Beckham's loan spells with AC Milan, said after Thursday's unveiling of the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star that Beckham would "surprise" many observers with his continued prowess on the pitch.

And speaking after Friday evening's 4-0 romp over Toulouse which cemented PSG's place at the top of Ligue 1, the Brazilian went further.

"It's normal there should be questions (but) after the departure of seven players and the arrival of two others (in the transfer window) we will have a reduced squad" of 24, Leonardo told reporters.

Among the departures are Brazilian winger Nene, who has joined Qatari club Al-Gharafa, and France forward Guillaume Hoarau, who has joined Chinese outfit Dalian Aerbin.

"He will therefore be an important guy. David Beckham is an exemplary player who has had an exemplary career in all respects, wining top honours throughout."

Leonardo said he had been impressed when Beckham played under him at San Siro in 2009.

"He was always at a very high level. I was his coach - I saw him every day.

"That is the most important thing with David Beckham, not his notoriety or what gets said around him.

Beckham himself insisted Thursday that "physically I feel good, as if I were 21."

He also joked that "I've not lost much pace because I never really had any."

Leonardo indicated that the extra interest the Beckham factor will generate will have major spin-offs for Ligue 1 as "France will be a country for great footballers."

Leonardo clearly believes Beckham still comes into the 'greats' category and, even if the former England man only stays until the summer, the Brazilian and PSG will be mindful of the economic benefits.

Forbes magazine indicated that Beckham was a major factor in Real Madrid's huge increase in merchandise sales, which topped $600 million in his four years with the Spanish giants – a 60 percent rise within two seasons of his arrival.

Even in the year Beckham arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu, in 2003, Real recouped much of their outlay in shirt sales and an Asian summer tour saw him and the squad mobbed as the Spaniards massively extended their global fan base.

Real's former director of marketing, Jose Angel Sanchez, put the Beckham effect at 440 million euros while financial daily Cinco Dias estimated the club shifted a million shirts bearing his name within six months of his signing.


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