David Beckham appeared to lose more than a few hundred years at Manchester United and with his England career. Or that’s the way it seemed. A new biography reveals how an aged and bespectacled Becks managed to win youth team caps for both club and country.
David Beckham looked as though he was leaving behind an England career that was waning, as the 34-year-old looked frail in a defeat against Germany in 2008. But he had notched the last of his 20 goals in the loss at Old Trafford.
Then the phones started ringing.
“What about going to the New York Cosmos?” a coach asked. Then said there was an offer for him at Milan’s AC Milan. “But not till the end of the season?” Becks’ replied, “Exactly.” His conversation ended at short notice.
Midfielder Beckham had only a few months remaining in his playing career after the GB Olympics. He was happy, middle aged, finally settled in Los Angeles and then about to move to Paris to play for PSG. But things had been going so well he said he could imagine spending his retirement there.
And then there was one last morning, in the offices of his management company in London. Beckham was 40 in December 2007, and had not been hitting the headlines, although he was still one of the most recognisable sportsmen in the world. He had won four English trophies in a row, playing alongside the likes of Aaron Lennon and Ousmane Dabo.
“OK, how much longer will he last this time,” someone asked Beckham.
“Too long,” his psychologist replied.
Beckham’s last game as an England international in March 2008 was in Munich, at the beginning of a run of not winning away in European competition for four years.
A strange trio of penalties saw him get sent off. He had run, jumping and falling, through a crowd of tackles as England were thrashed.
There was confusion as to whether the man who followed him out of the tunnel should be awarded the penalty kick. Neither Steven Gerrard nor Frank Lampard asked for the kick – they might have been bored after a period of TV screens showing Beckham winding up in training during the week.
His retirement at PSG was timed so that his final game was at Manchester United on 1 April. Fans had to wait until the second half to see him lift the famous Premier League trophy. Becks picked the ball up, ran on for a few steps, and back to midfield. With that, he said goodbye to four years of English football in a first-half performance that had followed his one-club career so closely.
Five years on, you might not quite be ready to say farewell to Becks. In fact you might be happy to have him back on your television again, including a link with Thursday night’s Match of the Day, in which he will look after Jonathan Pearce’s run as host.