STOKE, England (AP) — English Premier League club Stoke City has finalized its acquisition of Brek Shea after the American winger secured a work permit and international clearance just hours before the January transfer window closed.
The 22-year-old Shea signed a four-and-half-year contract worth $4 million for his move from FC Dallas of Major League Soccer.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis on Thursday called it "fantastic news" and said Shea is "a very, very exciting player."
Shea, who has played for FC Dallas since 2008, is recovering from surgery in November on his right foot. He has yet to score in 15 appearances with the U.S. national team. He joins American defender Geoff Cameron at Stoke.
DC United pick up Olsen's contract option for 2014
WASHINGTON (AP) — D.C. United have picked up the option on coach Ben Olsen's contract for the 2014 season.
United announced the move Thursday.
Olsen became interim coach after Curt Onalfo was fired in August 2010 and was hired for the full-time job three months later.
United have a 29-31-20 regular-season record under Olsen, but last season they returned to the playoffs and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals.
Olsen was one of the most popular players in United history before retiring in 2009. He also made 37 appearances for the U.S. national team.
Beckham joins PSG, pledges to donate salary
PARIS (AP) — In a dazzling career filled with riches and titles, David Beckham is taking his globe-trotting soccer tour to one of the most alluring destinations of all.
The 37-year-old midfielder signed a five-month contract with Paris Saint-Germain on Thursday, and has agreed to essentially play for free. He will donate his salary to a children's charity.
"It's one of the things we talked about from the start, but this all happened so quick," said Beckham, who did not disclose how much he will be paid or which group will get the money. "I thought what a great idea it would be that the salary would go to a children's charity in Paris."
The former England captain chose the ambitious French club after rejecting offers from other teams. The move came as the transfer window was starting to close and marks the latest step in a career that has seen Beckham win titles with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Los Angeles Galaxy.
"Every club I have played for throughout the world, I have been successful with. I have been successful with Manchester United, and I have always said that I would never want to play for another English club," Beckham said. "It's the team that I support, that I always dreamt of playing for."
Beckham recently finished a six-year stint with the Galaxy in Major League Soccer. Whether he can still be a force in European soccer is uncertain, especially with so many talented players on a PSG team that has cost nearly $366 million to assemble since its Qatari owners took charge in June 2011.
"I am very lucky. I am 37 years old and I got offered a lot of offers, more offers now than I have probably had in my career, at my age," Beckham said. "I am very honored about that. I chose Paris because I can see what the club are trying to do, the players the club are trying to bring in. It's an exciting city, always has been, always will be."
The immaculately dressed Beckham was a model of elegance and calm as camera crews and photographers jostled for position amid the frenzy. He joked that he feels much younger than his age.
"To be the elder statesman, I'm very proud of that," he said. "No matter what my age is, I still feel 21 years old — most days."
Beckham's deal runs out in June but he intends to keep playing, although whether that will be with PSG remains to be decided. He is, however, eager to have a long-term role at the club.
"We slightly brushed over it, a long-term partnership is what we have looked for," he said. "Short term is playing, but long term is something we are very proud to be part of this organization that will grow and become one of the biggest in Europe."
Beckham was close to joining PSG last year, discussing a potential move with a club desperately chasing a big name to match its sudden glamour and seemingly endless funds from its Qatari backers.
But the move fell through and PSG moved on to other targets, landing striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and AC Milan teammate Thiago Silva as well as Napoli winger Ezequiel Lavezzi and Brazilian prodigy Lucas.
"I felt last year that I still had something to achieve in Los Angeles. I won the championship in the last year of my contract," said Beckham, adding that the time was not right. "So we parked it and decided that right now is the right time because I was at the end of my contract last year. I accepted one more year in Los Angeles, I won another championship, another trophy in Los Angeles and I believe it was the right time to leave."
He said the agreement was finally sealed overnight. And shortly before noon Thursday, he made the short flight from London to Paris.
"Right now, I have a few things to sort out with my children and the schooling and a few other things," he said. "I have been training at Arsenal. My fitness won't take long to get up to speed. I definitely won't be fit for next Friday. A few weeks and I'll be up to speed."
Beckham said he was enticed by putting his salary to work in a novel way.
"It's something I'm not sure has been done before, and it's something I'm very passionate about, children and the charity side of things, and so are the club," he said. "We came together and it's something special."
For the time being, Beckham will stay in a hotel, with his family staying in London.
"I think it'll be easier for me," he said. "Whatever's easiest for me and the family when they come to watch me."
On the field, other challenges await. One of them is free kicks, Beckham's specialty. The high-scoring Ibrahimovic is around for such duties, but Beckham says he has experience in such matters.
"If I get the chance, then I'm sure we will share that thing. Whoever fancies it," Beckham said. "I've done it in the past. I've been in teams with Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo and (Zinedine) Zidane — trying to take a free kick off Roberto Carlos is pretty difficult. I expect with Ibra, it will be exactly the same."
-- Jerome Pugmire
Commentary: Beckham brings 'wow' factor to Paris
PARIS (AP) — At Paris Saint-Germain, David Beckham may again prove that there is still some good football in his 37-year-old legs. If not, no matter, because in Paris he's chosen a city where simply looking fabulous is enough to turn heads and make people go "Wow!"
And Beckham is a master at that.
PSG doesn't need Beckham to tear up and down the pitch week-in, week-out, delivering pinpoint crosses, as he did many moons and tattoos ago at Manchester United, the club that first made him a star.
It needs to associate its name and logo with brand Beckham, so that more people from Anchorage to Zhuhai start to remember what the initials "PSG" actually stand for. It needs his ability to glue eyeballs to television screens. It needs him for the same reason fashion lovers drool over Parisian couture: to stand out from the hoi-polloi.
PSG's slogan is "Dream Bigger" — an ambition made possible by the Qatari owners who bought the club in 2011 and brought rivers of investment. They want to make PSG one of the glamor clubs of Europe, mentioned in the same breath as a Real Madrid or a Bayern Munich, not merely a big fish in the comparatively small pond of French football. PSG beating the likes of Troyes or Evian in the French league will never be big news in Hong Kong or Houston. But the brief fling between Paris, capital of chic, and Beckham, king of football chic, will be. In this way, the two should fit like a princess' slippers.
Beckham in a PSG jersey might not make much football sense. Two of Beckham's potential partners in the PSG midfield, Lucas from Brazil and the exciting Italian Marco Verratti, are practically young enough to be Beckham's kids. At age 20, they represent PSG's playing future. Beckham, at 37, does not.
The brevity of Beckham's contract — five months — and the fact that his wife, Victoria, and their children will stay in London suggested this is more of a cameo role than a serious sporting one for Beckham and that PSG signed him more for the splash than to plug any weakness in its team.
Ryan Giggs, Beckham's former teammate at Manchester United, is still putting in useful shifts for that team at the even riper age of 39. Beckham will be closely scrutinized to see how he re-adapts to European football after six years of Major League Soccer with the Los Angeles Galaxy. It seems highly unlikely that Beckham could cope with playing every match for PSG, but he is sure to get some minutes.
None of which is meant disrespectfully. He looked amazing at his standing-room-only press call Thursday at PSG's Parc des Princes stadium, every inch sporting royalty in a sober suit and magazine hair, twiddling an expensive-looking pen.
The saucy journalist who called him the league's new "grand-papa" couldn't ruffle him. Beckham gets full marks for the way he has looked after himself, kept his competitive juices flowing and is squeezing every last drop out of his football talent before he retires.
"I still feel 21 years old most days," he said.
PSG's recruitment last July of star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and now Beckham is reminiscent of the "Galaticos" policy Real Madrid employed last decade to add zip and glitter to its brand. Beckham was one of those stars, and PSG is now paying for that same luster. Beckham's pledge to donate his salary to a children's charity made him and the club look good, by seeming to put some distance between them and football's money-is-everything mentality.
But as Paris fashion victims would tell you, buying expensive things is one thing, getting them to fit together into a stunning outfit is quite another. PSG's expensively assembled players have struggled at times to play as a team, especially when the headstrong Ibrahimovic is in one of his moods where he seems to do only what pleases him.
Beckham on Thursday named-dropped stars he has played with and championships he has won. It may be that he can use that clout in the PSG dressing room, to get his new teammates to work better together.
"I have a lot of experience in the game," he noted. "I can still run around, I can still play as I did when I was 21 years old. I have not lost any of my pace because, to be honest, I haven't had a lot of pace throughout my career."
On-field contributions Beckham makes will be a bonus. The big thing for PSG is simply that he is here, looking great in a city that has elevated that to an art. Their wealth allows PSG's owners to treat themselves and their grateful fans to la creme of football: one of the sport's best coaches in Ancelotti, one of the best strikers in the towering shape of Ibrahimovic and now an icon, Beckham. He gives them bragging rights over other status-conscious members of the Qatari elite.
If Ibrahimovic is PSG's sports car, the player whose goals will help the team get places, then Beckham is the rare vintage automobile to be shown off but not driven wildly so his aging parts don't overheat. He is an image-enhancer for PSG and Qatar, the Gulf emirate pouring billions into sport to win friends and influence and to provide future revenue when its gas and oil reserves are pumped dry.
In short, a big reason Beckham is in Paris is because PSG wants people like me to write this article and people like you to read it.
Are we really that easy to influence? Answer: Because of Beckham, I'm betting that if you didn't know already, you can now say what the "P'' in PSG stands for.
John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beckham steals limelight on subdued deadline day
LONDON (AP) — David Beckham lit up a subdued transfer deadline day in Europe by securing perhaps the final move of his globetrotting career, a surprise short-term deal with ambitious French club Paris Saint-Germain.
Mario Balotelli, a headline-grabber at the opposite end of his football career, finalized his switch from Manchester City to AC Milan for €20 million ($27 million). Otherwise, there was plenty of speculation but precious little activity as another January window closed for business on Thursday.
With economic problems continuing to hit the continent hard, top clubs have also been forced to rein in their spending to ensure they adhere to UEFA's strict financial fair play rules.
The English Premier League — usually the scene of last-gasp trolley dashes among clubs — was quiet by its standards, with Arsenal moving late to sign Spain left back Nacho Monreal from Malaga for a reported fee of 8.3 million pounds ($13.6 million). Inter Milan was the busiest of Serie A's major teams but only to bring in four unheralded names.
Nothing, though, was ever going to upstage PSG's signing of Beckham, who moves to the French capital on a five-month deal during which time he will donate his salary to a local children's charity.
"I am 37 years old and I got offered a lot of offers, more offers now than I have probably had in my career," said the former England captain, who revealed he rejected bids from Premier League teams.
"I can still run around, I can still play as I did when I was 21 years old."
Where Beckham fits in at PSG is another question entirely. Once he regains his match fitness, he will likely have to settle for a bit-part role with the French league leaders, who are close to becoming the modern-day "galacticos" with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva among the big names already at the club.
"I'm excited about the challenge," Beckham said. "I love the challenge wherever I have played, whatever league or culture I have played in."
Balotelli, who has been afforded hero status since his return to Italy on Wednesday, completed his move to Milan early Thursday, ending a turbulent 2½-year stint at City where he was rarely out of the headlines for his behavior on and off the pitch.
"Being at City was an important part of my life and career," the 22-year-old Balotelli said. "I needed to grow up like a player and as a person and it has been a very good experience for me."
Elsewhere in Italy, Napoli signed FC Porto defender Rolando on loan, Mohamed Sissoko joined Fiorentina on loan from PSG and Inter's signings were teenager Mateo Kovacic, Zdravko Kuzmanovic, Ezequiel Schelotto and Juan Pablo Carrizo.
In England, last-minute deals were mainly confined to the Premier League's strugglers, with last-place Queens Park Rangers sealing the biggest signing by bringing in giant defender Christopher Samba from Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala for a reported club-record fee of 12 million pounds ($19 million).
In a bizarre twist late on deadline day, Nigeria striker Peter Odemwingie drove to London from central England in an attempt force a move from West Bromwich to QPR. West Brom released a statement saying Odemwingie had been denied permission to talk to QPR and he was barred entrance to Loftus Road.
Bundesliga clubs in Germany also resisted the urge to splash out on deadline day, with relegation-threatened Hoffenheim bringing in Tottenham's third-choice goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes on loan in the biggest move.
-- Steve Douglas
Argentine, Italian clubs fined over transfer deal
ZURICH (AP) — FIFA has fined Argentine club Independiente and Italian club Genoa for breaking transfer rules in a blocked deal for defender Julian Velazquez.
FIFA says both clubs' behavior "stains the credibility of the entire transfer system."
They agreed that Genoa would pay a "significant" amount to Independiente to complete mandatory documents which FIFA insists should be free of charge in its Transfer Matching System.
Genoa also failed to submit documents to FIFA's online process, which seeks to ensure fair dealing and financial transparency in the billion-dollar annual transfer market.
FIFA says its disciplinary panel fined both clubs 35,000 Swiss francs ($38,400).
FIFA says Independiente faces further disciplinary action, and Genoa has been warned about future conduct.
The 22-year-old Velazquez has stayed in Argentina as FIFA stalled the transfer since Aug. 31.