Monday, September 05, 2005
David Beckham for England (vs Colombia), 26 June 1998
David Beckham is a preening clown.
He is a naricssistic buffoon with an unhealthy obsession with his own celebrity. He has a poisonous, talentless wife (who I was unsurprised to learn is apparently on a "lobster & champagne diet". Why she's on a diet at all is beyond me, but somehow I didn't see her being on the cabbage plan...). He will endorse any old tat for cash and will offer his opinion on anything (I saw him quoted on the Ashes today, and he didn't let his total lack of interest in the cricket get in the way of finding something to say about it).
Yes, yes. This much we know.
What about his worth as a footballer?
He's never been the quickest player, and he's never really been one to set off on a mazy dribble. He's certainly not very likely to ghost past a marker as though he wasn't there. He's not a great header of the ball,and he's not the best tackler.... what he does have though is the ability to pass the ball as though it has been laser guided and an ability with the dead ball that is almost second to none. From his station on the right-flank, Beckham at his best was able to feed a stream of quality ball to his forwards, to put ball after ball into the penalty area with enough whip on it to make it a defender's nightmare. On top of this ability, he had amazing stamina. I have never seen a single player work as hard as Beckham did against Greece in the final qualification game before the 2002 World Cup. Even before his free kick, it was as if he was taking on the whole Greek side single-handedly. It was an astonishing performance, and the single biggest reason that England qualified.
Sadly, Beckham was below his best for the tournament itself, a result of his infamous foot injury. At some point in the aftermath of that tournament though, Beckham got ideas above his station. He was transferred to Real Madrid, the biggest club side in the world, and somehow he began to believe all of his own publicity. He began to hanker after a berth in the centre of midfield; closer to the heart of the action; a position more fitting to his status as the captain of England. He stopped doing the things he was good at. To watch him playing for England was to see him constantly drifting into the centre from his position on the right. This Saturday we saw him playing in the deep-lying midfield player in a 4-5-1 formation - he played OK, but surely this was a case of Eriksson finding a formation that enabled him to keep Beckham in the side, rather than putting him in his best position or of putting the best available person into that position. With all due respect to Wales, against tougher opposition, surely he would be found out in that position? The image of Beckham jumping out of a tackle in the 2002 World Cup and Rivaldo heading off down the pitch to score is too fresh in my mind. If Sean Wright-Phillips is a better bet on the right side of the midfield, then surely Beckham must be dropped, captain or not.
So what next?
Forget about his commercial interests for a minute. Thinking purely about his football, do you think he's worth his place? Should he be captain? Where would you play him?
You've read my barely concealed plagiarism of the thoughts of many of England's sportswriters.... now tell me what you think.