With so much at stake, Paris Saint- Germain's visit to the Parc des Sports on Sunday was always going to be a heated affair.
The nouveau riche Parisians were on the cusp of winning their first league title in 19 years, a feat they were denied by a three-point margin last season. Home side Evian TG, meanwhile, were sitting at 17th in the Ligue 1 standings, needing three points to stand a better chance of avoiding the drop back to Ligue 2—the division of which they were champions in 2011.
Javier Pastore made the difference in the match in the 50th minute, scoring a goal that reestablished their nine-point lead over Marseille with four games remaining.
Yet the scoreline was overshadowed by a frantic final nine minutes: Marco Verratti received his marching orders for a second yellow card, PSG assistant coach Claude Makelele was sent to the stands, while a post-match brawl also saw Evian striker Saber Khelifa and PSG goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu dismissed.
The brawl was preceded by a substitute appearance by David Beckham, which should have lasted around ten minutes, but ended up as a six-minute cameo. A studs-up challenge on Youssef Adnane earned Goldenballs an early walk down the tunnel.
It was Beckham's seventh career red card, and the first since a similarly aggressive lunge in LA Galaxy's 2-0 loss to Seattle in August 2009. Even though Adnane made a meal out of what appeared to be very little contact—and Beckham seemed to pull his foot out of the challenge midway through—it was reckless and deserved a red card.
But will this unsavoury event prove to be the curtain closer on Beckham's Ligue 1 career? Could he even bow out on a red card, much like his former teammate Zinedine Zidane?
There are only four games to go in France's top flight, and Beckham will receive at least a three match ban. That does not give a lot of breathing space, particularly if the French Football Association (FFF) decide to make an example of a hot-headed moment in a heated game.
By Premier League rules, his seven appearances would fall short of the minimum ten games needed to get a league winner's medal, but fortunately for Goldenballs, this writer believes such a rule is not in place in Ligue 1.
While he probably will get a precious metal accolade to add to his collection, his chances of kicking another ball with Les Rouge-et-Bleu this season appear to be at the discretion of the disciplinary board of the FFF.
If he is available for selection for the final game against Lorient on May 26th, one would imagine Carlo Ancelotti would give him a run-out, if only for the fact that his side would almost certainly have won the league by that point.
But if Beckham has played his last match of the season, there is a very good chance he has played his last for PSG.
Two weeks ago, the English midfielder claimed his employers have "made it very clear" they want him to stay on for another season (via The Daily Mail). However, at no point did Beckham say he has accepted a contract extension. He merely said that he is "honored" to have received the offer, and made a comment about the fact that he turns 38 in May (this week, actually).
If he decides to stay, he would be four years older than the second-oldest outfield player in the squad, veteran defender Zoumana Camara, who has started three games this season.
Age issues aside, in an interview in early April, the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star drew attention to the fact that he is finding it very difficult to be apart from his family, who are living in London. "That's the sacrifice I have to make as a father and as a husband: being away from my family," he told CNN.
The morning after his sending off on Sunday, Beckham was not photographed running laps at The Camp des Loges. He was back in London taking his daughter to school (via The Sun), clearly showing his priorities.
As a man who has everything—and nothing to prove within the beautiful game—would he want to sacrifice spending time with his kids for another season of sitting on the bench in Paris? We cannot know his motivations, but it seems unlikely.
He may be slower and a little less dynamic these days, but watching Beckham switch the ball across the field with pin-point accuracy is still a joy to watch.
Yet if an FFF ban and family obligations conspire, his last moment in Ligue 1 may have been a unpleasant recall to the kind of petulant incident we saw early in his career. For this reason—and the satisfaction of finishing things on a high note—one can only imagine we haven't seen the last of David Beckham.