That’s it then. David Beckham has moved clubs for the last time in his playing career, if you believe what you read. His move from Real Madrid to LA Galaxy has been announced with almost as much fuss as the reaction that greeted his move from Manchester United toSpain. Years ago I spent some time working for a newspaper in the North West, inBlackburn, of all places. On the desk next to mine sat the sports photographer who figured out I was a Man United fan and thought I’d be interested to know he had just been to Bisham Abbey to photograph the new England caps. You will know the pictures if you see them, Gary Neville and co in horrible burgandyEnglandjumpers holding the flag of St. George. He gave me the David Beckham one and said I could keep it, I still have it, he said the lad would be worth watching. By then I’d been to Old Trafford to know he was worth watching.
After that David Beckham was more than involved in every good United memory I have up until his departure. Free-kicks here, free-kicks there; turning up at Filbert Street which a shaved head that got the media talking more about that than the actual match, signing autographs at the Rollin Reds Christmas Party. The man was a great player and a Manchester United boy through and through. At times he may have been something of an embarrassment off the pitch, reading the papers with a feeling of “oh my God what has he done now” feeling in your stomach but we can forgive all that if the stuff on the pitch is good enough, and it was.
United fans have a history of standing by players in moments of crisis and this did not change when David Beckham was sent off for England during the World Cup. Diego Simeone received a 4.5 from the judge as he made the most of the boot Beckham directed at him and it was a hot-headed act but the reaction from England fans and the media (and as a result, from rival fans up and down the country) was such that you would have thought he had murdered the Queen. David Beckham came back the following season and delivered a strong set of performances in the face of torment from rival fans. There was even time for a handshake with Simeone as United met Inter on the way to the treble (that’s three proper trophies, not tin pot ones like the Liverpool lot won).
The fact that he not only delivered that season, but went on to captain his country says a lot for the man and the player. It also says that the rest of football is quick to jump on the bandwagon and blame a national team’s failings on one United player and a moment of madness, rather than look at the fact that most of the time it has nothing to do with that one player and everything to do with the fact that England were not up to the job. I wonder how long it will be before that lesson is learned? It was left to United fans to remind Beckham how good he was and how he was treasured at Old Trafford, the big foreign cup he helped to bring back from Barcelona in 1999 was not a bad thank you to us for our support.
I’m not writing today just to blow smoke up Mr Beckham’s arse or to make him into something he was not. At the time he left Manchester United, something had to give and it was him. Some fans said that this time Fergie had gone too far, but at the end of the day the move to Real really cannot be seen as that much of a success. Three trophy less seasons and a fourth and final fling with Spain at the half way point and he has left their fans with nothing more than a couple of free kicks, shirt sales and feelings of indifference to him. It killed me to see our Beckham paraded in Knighton-esque ball juggling style at the Santiago Bernabeau the day he signed, but at first at least the fans seemed to idolise him. Now though it seems that was short lived and if you watch for the fans reaction he seems to have fallen into the ‘much hyped but never delivered’ category, which is a shame for David.
Yesterday when I heard the news I must admit I thought it was a wind up, because at the same time there were rumours that David Bentley was going to Man United and that Geoff Horsfield (?!) was going to Celtic. Silly season or what! But no, it turns out that two of those three stories are true – it seems Gordon Strachan won’t be happy until he has purchased every single mediocre English first division player.
I was a little disappointed then and I still am now if I am honest. I feel as if he is putting himself out to pasture too early, he could still offer a team something competitively, far more so than in the MLS. That was my first reaction, but think about it all the way through for a second. I like to think that a return to the Premiership was out straight away when there was no interest from Manchester United and to stay in Spain when you have played for Real Madrid would have been exactly the same prospect; dropping down the league in order to get a game in either country would have been hard. Then you have Italy, no interest there? Maybe there was, but importantly not from David Beckham. He is at the stage where he needs to leave his legacy, his world legacy. For some players United is their world, so whatever they do for us IS their legacy, for Beckham his world is the world itself. His legacy will be the David Beckham soccer schools and the David Beckham brand. All that wasn’t important to United fans, is everything he has been arguing for control over in his last Real Madrid contract – the contract that never came.
In football terms, David seems content to have finished that side of the story. His move to America seems to be an acceptance of the fact that he will never play for England again and the only real silverware in his collection comes from his time at the team he followed as a youngster (and still follows to this day)…Manchester United. Real Madrid fans seem quick to deny that he has left them with anything so that is fine, United fans will be happy to claim him back and remember the goals for England and the reds. He moves to LA to complete his morph into the A-Lister he always wanted to be. Congratulations to the Beckham’s, the Beckham Brand is alive and well now that he has Jack Nicholson et al for neighbours. The equivalent to £500,000 a week contract that he will reportedly sign isn’t a bad carrot to dangle either. If I was offered that to go an play football infront of 6 people and a dog, I would do. I don’t blame him, I just think it’s a bit of a sad end to David Beckham’s football career as we know it.
When people remember that this boy actually played football at one point in his super star life, United fans will be there with the memories to back up the talent that he had playing for our Manchester United. David Beckham? I know him; I hear he used to be pretty good at soccer.