Beckham: The Return Of The Amateur Gentleman

So, almost a month after the end of the transfer window, it seems like one of the most bizarre transfer sagas of this season has finally been wrapped up. According to The Guardian David Beckham is now  the subject of what is essentially a timeshare deal between Milan & LA Galaxy:

Beckham will remain in Milan until the end of the Serie A campaign and then return to the United States in time for the second half of the Major League Soccer season before rejoining Milan on loan from November until the conclusion of the 2009-10 European season.

With this move David Beckham is, once again, rewriting the rules of modern football; as has so often been the case during his career, he’s charting new waters and redefining what it means to be a modern footballer.

However it was something else in The Guardian’s article that really caught my attention:

Beckham is reported to be funding the majority of the undisclosed loan fee agreed between Milan and Galaxy – about £2m is said be coming from his own pocket — and he will also sacrifice the bountiful commercial earnings to which he would have been entitled had he stayed in the States.

This single sentence sums up, I think why David Beckham is a footballer to be admired: someone who, despite his undoubted taste for flash and all of the finer things that his celebrity life has brought him, remains a role-model.

This may seem like a strange thing to so about someone who has so often been the cartoon character that ‘real’ football fans love to hate: the man who wasn’t as good as he though or good enough to deserve his high-profile status; the man who married a pop-star because he wanted to be one himself; the man who always prized style over substance. In fact it’s often struck me that, at least since he was sent off for ‘that kick‘ back in 1988, David Beckham has been the exact opposite of most of these stereo-types.

Rather than someone who wasn’t as good as he thought, or good enough to deserve his status, Beckham is one of the hardest working footballers around (as his new deal highlights), covering more miles in an average game than almost any of his peers (a sign, I think, that he understands that he’s not the best footballer around). And whilst he’s often been jeered for (supposedly) following wherever the money goes, it’s worth thinking about exactly why Beckham has signed this new deal (and cost himself a lot of money in doing so): The Guardian, again:

That fact articulates how wealthy he already is, of course, but also demonstrates the strength of his determination to travel to a fourth consecutive World Cup with England, a feat so far only achieved by Sir Bobby Charlton.

So, whilst players such as Paul Scholes & Alan Shearer (often lauded as being ‘real’ footballers, and the antithesis of the David Beckhams of the world) decided to stop offering themselves for their country in order to extend their careers with their respective clubs, David Beckham is prepared to play for 2 clubs in order to increase his chances of continuing to play for his country (and let’s not even get into the fact that, by all accounts, he only moved to LA because he thought his England career was over following the appointment of Steve ‘He made us realise that Eriksson was better than we thought’ McLaren).

With this decision David Beckham has, almost single-handedly, returned us to an age that seemed lost forever: the age of the amateur gentleman, who played because they loved the sport. In the early days of the game, when the legendary Corinthians could beat almost anyone (but often wouldn’t, because it might be unsporting), such behaviour would have been thought of as entirely normal. But now, and for obvious reasons, it seems almost entirely alien. I’m not suggesting for a second that we should return to the days when only independently wealthy gentlemen (most of them probably aristocracy) could afford to play sport. But I do think that we should take this opportunity to praise David Beckham for his devotion to his sport & his country.

Alex Fegurson might have been desperate to get rid of Beckham just before he finally managed to do so, having decided that the Spice Boy was more trouble than he was worth. But it strikes me that now, no matter how much Ferguson may claim to find Cristiano Ronaldo’s little quirks (crashing cars, purposefully getting other players sent off, diving) amusing, David Beckham is the type of player he’d rather have around him. It’s noticeable that Fegurson talked of having dinner with Beckham – my guess is that Ronaldo wouldn’t have accepted such an invitation unless the venue was Hooters.

Gentlemen image by L-plate big cheese on flickr


  1. Fella, you do write some absolutely blinding posts you know. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve always thought Beckham was an excellent ambassador for the sport, all the “shiny shit” aside. If we had another 10 players for England that played with the same dedication, spirit, and work ethic then we would holders of the World Cup and the Euros. Unfortunately we have players like Ashley Cole, who is a complete numpty.

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