So, one of Alex Ferguson‘s golden generation has announced his imminent retirement which I’m sure will be met with howls of pain and pangs of sadness across parts of Manchester, Madrid and Milan.
There is no doubt that David Beckham‘s influence across the global game of soccer stretched far and wide with the Beckham media machine ensuring shirts with his name on the back flew off the shelves in even the darkest corners of the planet.
The man can well and truly be called one of the most recognizable names in the world thanks in part to photographs taken with his wife Victoria at the Los Angeles Lakers games, and thanks also in part to his visage staring out at us from underwear packets.
However, it has to be said that Beckham wasn’t a great soccer player. He isn’t in the same league as Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi or Pele in terms of sheer natural skill with the ball. He isn’t even in the same league as current greats such as David Silva or Luis Suarez in terms of technical ability. He was a competent player, an average player, a one footed wonder best summed up by one of his own Manchester compatriots George Best.
“He can’t kick with his left foot, he can’t head, he can’t tackle, and he doesn’t score many goals. Apart from that, he’s all right,” Best said.
It seems fair to say that Best wasn’t a fan.
Beckham enjoyed a reasonable start to his career at Manchester United, but nothing outstanding could be noted about the floppy-haired teenager until he scored against Wimbledon from the half way line. That goal announced him to the world but he has failed to repeat any goals of a similar caliber since. His move to Real Madrid in 2003 bought him more fame and exposure yet that Madrid team, who was collecting trophies for fun before he arrived, failed to win anything significant for fours years during Beckham’s inclusion. More under-the-radar moves to the Los Angeles Galaxy and AC Milan followed where he won the MLS title with the Galaxy but didn’t do anything more at AC Milan than improve his suspect fitness.
It would be totally unfair at this point not to recognize Beckham’s many achievements in the game, most notably his last ditch free kick at Old Trafford against Greece to qualify for the 2002 World Cup or his redemption against Argentina in the same tournament.
Yet the relatively few high moments fail to mask the fact that Beckham’s “legend” tag was far from deserved. Who could forget the Rebecca Loos scandal where Beckham’s moment of indiscretion was splashed all over the front pages or the idiotic kick at Diego Simeone that cost England the 1998 World Cup?
Beckham is known for having a great cross or taking stunning free kicks yet he really wasn’t that successful from those free kicks with only the odd few and the one against Greece really having any significance. Juninho has a better hit rate than Beckham.
What really stands out about Beckham is his ability to collect red cards, which may surprise some, but the Leytonestone lad has so far picked up eight red cards in his career the latest coming against Ligue 1 team Evian for a horror tackle on Youssef Adnane whilst playing for Paris Saint-German. Beckham has actually been sent off more times than Joey Barton who is referred to as a thug by many.
There’s no doubt that “Brand Beckham” will inevitably roll on and the man has certainly done very well out of soccer with what can only be described as limited talent, and will no doubt continue to be used as a tool to market perfume, pants, etc.
However, to call the lingerie-wearing, sarong-favoring model a “legend” denigrates the true legends of the game.