David Beckham has shown the world something it didn’t know before – slow wingers can succeed at the very top level. Well, as long as they have something more to offer. Beckham’s name is now one of the, if not THE, most famous names in football and he’s even known outside of football for successful advertising careers and his personal life – though that’s not quite why he deserves a place in the Hall of Fame. Beckham has played for massive clubs like Manchester United, Real Madrid and AC Milan and introduced himself to the world with one of the best goals a youngster has ever scored in world football. And then followed a career full of success which made a name for the Leytonstone boy lad. Take a bow son…
Beckham was born in Leytonstone, London, on the 2nd of May 1975. He played football in the park as a child and always dreamed of becoming a professional footballer, having a real passion for the sport and for Manchester United which he had picked up from his parents who were fanatical about the club. He attended one of Bobby Charlton’s football schools in Manchester and was even a mascot at Old Trafford. After playing for a youth team his father coached Beckham moved to Brimsdown Rovers youth team and, after trials with several clubs, he moved to Tottenham’s school of excellence. Manchester United saw his potential though and moved quickly to sign Beckham on schoolboy terms as a fourteen year old in 1989. He officially joined their youth team in 1991 though.
Beckham is still remembered fondly as one of “Fergie’s Fledglings” – a bunch of young players who came through the ranks at Man United at the same time which also included Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and the Neville Brothers. “You’ll never win anything with kids” declared Alan Hansen but Alex Ferguson’s youngsters would go on to prove him wrong. Beckham was part of United’s FA Youth Cup winning side of 1992 and made his first team debut later that year in a League Cup clash with Brighton. Beckham helped United’s reserves win their league in 1994 before moving to Preston on loan to get some first team experience where he impressed (even scoring directly from a corner) before returning to United to finally take his place in the Man U first team. Beckham scored in the first game of the 1995/6 season against Aston Villa and quickly established himself as first choice right midfielder – playing deeper due to his lack of pace but still having a tremendous eye for a cross, set piece or finish – his accuracy was amazing. He was also a hell of a free kick taker. Fergie’s Fledglings flew to a double of the FA Cup and league title to make names of themselves. The following season Beckham, now wearing the number 10 shirt formerly worn by Mark Hughes, scored from near the halfway line against Wimbledon on the opening day, making sure everyone would know him. It was the beginning of the best of Beckham.
Beckham was voted PFA Young Player of the Year following another successful season where United won the league once more. In the summer of 1997 Eric Cantona retired and Beckham quickly took on his Number 7 shirt which he went on to make even more famous. Beckham continued as a first choice regular at Old Trafford, contributing goals and assists aplenty. A few more years of great success at the club followed and Beckham was a massive fan favourite at the club. Things deteriorated though as Beckham fell out with Alex Ferguson over his wife Victoria (formerly a member of the Spice Girls) and their relationship would get worse over the following years. Beckham then did well to get over a bad metatarsal injury and managed his best goals tally for the club in 2001/02 when he notched 16 goals in 42 games. The next season things got worse though as Ferguson regularly dropped him in favour of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and even famously kicked a boot at Beckham in the aftermath of an FA Cup defeat against Arsenal. No player is bigger than the club and Beckham’s departure was imminent. He left the club in 2003 having won six Premiership titles, two FA Cups, a Champion’s League and an Intercontinental Cup and having scored 61 goals in 265 appearances in the league for United over 8 years. The fans were horrified to see him go.
Beckham snubbed interest from Barcelona to join the Catalans arch-rivals Real Madrid for £25 million in the summer of 2003. Real Madrid had a poor season in 2003/04 but Beckham impressed and quickly became a fans favourite for the club. The club again failed to win anything the next season but Beckham continued to impress. However, under next manager Fabio Capello Beckham lost favour and found himself having to earn a place in the squad – this he did remarkably well, proving Capello wrong to have dropped him and eventually proving an important asset for Real as they won the league for the first time in a few years. Beckham had already agreed a move to America to play for LA Galaxy back in January but Real were keen to keep him and tried to change the player’s mind. Beckham couldn’t be swayed though and moved to the MLS, eager to make football a bigger sport in the U.S.
Unsurprisingly the massive name signing of Beckham drew a lot of attention at Galaxy and he was immediately taken into the hearts of the club’s fans while opposition fans also flocked to see him in action. Despite injury problems Beckham did well for the club. However, the timings of the seasons in America led to Beckham worrying that he would lose his spot in the England squad as he was desperate to reach 100 international appearances and also to remain a part of the England team as long as he physically could. He trained with Arsenal before agreeing a loan spell with AC Milan to help keep him fit. This didn’t go down well with Galaxy fans though who started to doubt Beckham’s commitment to the team as he missed part of their season to play for Milan and his return saw him vilified and even get into altercations with fans. Recently another loan spell at Milan was agreed as Beckham clearly is not happy at Galaxy any more.
Beckham joined Milan on loan in January 2009 and quickly established himself as an important player in Carlo Ancelotti’s ageing team, scoring and assisting on a number of occasions and generally impressing to the point where Milan wanted to sign him permanently. A deal couldn’t be agreed with Galaxy though and Beckham returned to America as mentioned. He feels more at home in Italy though and was eager to secure a return to Milan which has now been arranged for January.
Beckham made his international debut in 1996 and a long, successful international career has followed with major ups and downs. The ups would undoubtedly be his crucial goals for England – his dramatic last minute free kick goal in a 2001 World Cup play-off put England into the upcoming World Cup and made him a national hero whilst he’s also managed to score several other important goals including being involved in England’s winning goal in the World Cup 2006 clash with Paraguay. His international career has had its bad moments though; he was controversially sent off against Argentina during the 1998 World Cup and was vilified as a villain in England afterwards as the decision contributed to England being eliminated from the tournament. He was also a casualty when Steve McLaren became England boss and decided to show his authority by removing the veteran Beckham from his side – McLaren later had to back down and call up Beckham once more though as England struggled under McLaren’s leadership. He’s also missed important penalties against France and Portugal in big competitions. Beckham reached a century of international caps in March 2008. He has made 115 appearances for his country, scoring 17 times.
Beckham is, in one word, a superstar – his name is synonymous with football; he’s known worldwide as not just a footballer but a style icon and one of the most famous men on the planet. His career has been extremely successful and he’s been highly impressive at three of the world’s biggest clubs and even now, in his later years, he continues to impress and could yet make the World cup in South Africa this summer – he’ll want to – Beckham’s a driven individual who has the lifelong abilities of accuracy and being a world class free kick taker. A lack of pace has never hindered Beckham’s progression and he will always be considered one of the best footballers of all times. A legend of both international and club scenes – children everywhere would love to be the next Beckham – the man’s a star in every sense of the word.
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