David Beckham has announced his retirement from football. In truth, David Beckham the footballer was lost a while ago. This retirement marks the end of the brand appearing on a football field. David Beckham is a football icon, a global superstar, recognised the world over. But did he really achieve enough as a footballer and will he look back on his career with regret?
Beckham fulfilled his life long dream of representing his boyhood club, Manchester United. Part of “Fergie’s Fledglings”, Beckham spent ten years at Old Trafford, enjoying overwhelming success and all manner of accolades. His dead ball ability and his wand of a right foot made him one of the best players in the world. Beckham was instrumental in United winning six Premier Leagues, two FA Cups and of course the 1998-99 Champions League, part of the historic Treble. He was UEFA Club Footballer of the Year in that season. Everything seemed perfect for Beckham at United.
Beckham became drawn in to the celebrity lifestyle. His marriage to Spice Girl Victoria Beckham led to a life in the public eye and he became an issue at Old Trafford. Sir Alex criticised the impact his marriage had on his football in his autobiography, claiming that “He was never a problem until he got married”. In the 2002-03 season the famous incident of Beckham being hit above the eye by a boot kicked by Ferguson was the beginning of the end. In July 2003, Beckham was sold to Real Madrid, marking the end of his Manchester United career. He took on Sir Alex Ferguson and lost.
His time at Real Madrid was a relative success, helping to boost his world fame and further raising the income of ‘Brand Beckham’. On the field though success was limited. Beckham won just one League title in his four years at Real and just one cup. He had troubles with Fabio Capello and his Real career ended in difficulty after he announced that he was moving to the USA to join LA Galaxy.
With this move Beckham chose money and world influence over football, therefore damaging his footballing reputation and influencing the way he will be remembered in years to come. Beckham became a figurehead for football in the USA and off the field his wealth grew and world fame rose yet further. He again won League Titles in the MLS but they were essentially meaningless.
Internationally Beckham has had an outstanding career. He has been capped 115 times by England and captained his country between 2000 and 2006. His move to the MLS impacted upon his England career however and one has to wonder how many more caps he would have won had Beckham continued to play at a competitive level. He represented England many times after his move to the MLS but mainly in bit-part, cameo performances and was never a serious contributor to the International scene while playing in America.
Beckham ended his career at Paris Saint Germain, where he won yet another League title in another country. These titles though are merely a fraction of what you feel he could have won had he focussed more on his football and less on his celebrity and media responsibilities.
Beckham has always been noted as a hard worker. He was not blessed with great ability. He is not the quickest, didn’t really have a trick and wasn’t great on his left foot. What Beckham managed was to make the most of what he did have. He became a set piece master and had incredible stamina to enable him to get around the field and work hard for the team. Had he not been drawn into the celebrity world, there is every chance he would have spent his entire career at Manchester United. That would have been a dream for Beckham and is surely one thing he slightly regrets.
When Beckham looks at the other members of the United youth squad he graduated from, he will see players who spent their whole careers at Old Trafford. Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs will all be remembered as legendary figures at the club. Beckham will not be placed in that category, probably at any of the clubs he has represented.
Despite all the fame, all the money, all the global admiration, Beckham must look back and wonder if he has just kept his behaviour in check and stayed at Manchester United, what he could have won. Would he have earned as much money and be a global superstar? Probably not. Would he have more trophies in his cabinet? Definitely. That was the trade off Beckham made in his career. He opted for fame and fortune over football. His career has been unbelievable and has brought things most players can only dream of. Off the field, Beckham has achieved everything possible from football. On it, he must look back and feel he had a footballing career that was unfulfilled.