For a celebrity with his brand values, it could have been career-ending. But it’s pretty hard to hate on the Becks. He may be a hustler, but it’s clear that he’s also a soccer romantic. And he really is always happy just to be here. It’s the leftover piece of his working-class charm that his global fan base intuitively understands. And it was this essential likability that allowed Becks to come out the best of the trio in the astounding media tempest that followed the revelation of the text messages. As his people undermined Loos behind the scenes, Beckham said little while letting himself be seen walking hand in hand with Victoria. “This scandal may actually add a bit of extra something to the Beckham brand because most football fans expect a bit of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll,” a British sponsorship consultant told London’s Observer newspaper at the time. Indeed, the deals with Pepsi, Adidas, and Vodafone were unaffected. When Loos later participated in a Surreal Life–type show called The Farm—masturbating a pig to completion, no less—Beckham truly seemed like the one to root for.

The survival of the Posh-and-Becks marriage was generally taken, against the usual pattern, as a sign of Becks’ loyalty and decency and not Posh’s. In the harsh calculus of modern celebrity, he is seen as carrying her. Her pop-music career is unlikely to be resuscitated, and she is insufficiently camp and too self-serious to tread the well-worn path of hipster revival, capped, say, by a Rick Rubin–produced triumph. But she does serve a function, and will when they settle in Hollywood. Like Hillary to Becks’ Bill, she throws his best qualities into relief. Where she is all tautly pursed lips, fierce expressions, and platinum nipples poking through of-the-moment Dior, he is allowed to smile his wry, embracing, doelike smile, what the Irish Independent last year called his “default expression of benign bafflement.”

After the starts began to dry up at Real, Beckham’s decision in January to come to Los Angeles was, therefore, a masterpiece of celebrity Frogger: He knows just when to jump from one sinking log and catch the next one coming the other way. He announced his Los Angeles Galaxy deal in the midst of contract-renewal negotiations with Real, discussions that almost certainly would have led to a wage reduction, meaning he moved at the last moment he still had any leverage as a player. Pelé came to America at age 35, three years after leaving the Brazilian national team. Becks still has some juice left.

His arrival in Los Angeles is also serendipitous. As Hollywood nightlife and tabloid culture increasingly focus on underage floozies, Posh and Becks look likely to revive the moribund 30-plus celebrity scene. The couple will be photographed around town with new best friends Tom and Katie Cruise (“He’s a very wise man,” Beckham has said of Tom), and there is already buzz that they will become Scientology’s new celebrity spokescouple.