Face it: it's over. Not just David Beckham's World Cup, but
also his England
career and his relevance as a footballer.
It is not often Early Doors is moved to quote Shakespeare.
In fact it's not ever. You see, ED never paid much attention during those GCSE
English classes when it was forced to perform the back end of a fairy in some
bastardised version of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
But this morning is an exception, because Beckham's playing
career closely mirrors the monologue that begins 'All The World's A Stage' from
Shakespeare's As You Like It.
It begins: "All the world's a stage, and all the
men and women merely players." Appropriate since Beckham was, literally
and figuratively, a player. A publicity magnet with a flair for the dramatic,
his existence - even the many mundane bits - became a real-life soap opera.
The monologue goes on to describe, as the title of this post
suggests, the seven ages of man. They go as follows:
A young Becks signed schoolboy forms with Manchester United
aged 14 and gained a YTS contract two years later. He was part of the now-legendary
1992 FA Youth Cup-winning side that also featured Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, Gary
Neville and, er, Robbie Savage. Despite a few first-team cameos Beckham was
sent to Preston on loan in 1995, but the departure
that summer of ED favourite Andrei Kanchelskis heralded...
"You'll win nothing with kids" was Alan Hansen's
damning verdict after a young United side lost to Villa on the opening day of
the season, but he did not bargain for the speed of Beckham's development. Spring
came and Kevin Keegan's Newcastle
imploded, chucking away a 10-point lead in the Premiership. United ended with a
double, and when Beckham scored from halfway against Wimbledon
on the opening day of the following season, he moved on to...
Shakespeare's lover was impetuous and remorseful for his acts. Beckham relished his new-found fame, hooked up with a Spice Girl, wore a
sarong and found himself catapulted into the front pages. His growing ability
on the pitch saw him make the 1998 World Cup squad, and he scored peach of a free-kick
Then came the remorse as he kicked out at Argentina's
Diego Simeone, got sent off and England
lost on penalties. For weeks, you could hardly find a lamp post without a
smouldering Beckham effigy hanging from it...
Public enemy number one responded to adversity by fighting. In a good way, this
time. He notched up several hundred assists as United won the treble in 1998/99
and came second in the FIFA World Player award. England fans found themselves with
no choice but to embrace him after he emerged as the country's best player by a
mile, and Sven-Goran Eriksson made him captain. He rewarded the Swede with that
Roy Of The Rovers free-kick against Greece
to take England
to the World Cup. But he broke a metatarsal, was sub-par in Japan and Korea, and things started to turn
sour closer to home...
This one requires a bit of explanation - Shakespeare's
'Justice' stage is when a man achieves social status and prosperity, and starts
to enjoy them a little too much. So it was with Beckham, whose superstar billing grated with Fergie. Galactico-collectors Real Madrid had pursued Becks for
ages, but after a stray boot in the dressing-room ended up spoiling his
good looks, the divorce was on. Beckham went to Madrid, where his arrival (after those of
Figo, Zidane and Ronaldo) was greeted with shrugs and calls of "mucho
marketing". Despite performing fairly well, to many Beckham symbolised
Real's complacency and decline...
6-Old age (2007-2010)
Shunned by England
boss Steve McClaren and soon out of contract with Real, Beckham sensationally
signed for Los Angeles Galaxy. It was supposedly the ultimate admission that
Brand Beckham was more important than playing for a decent side. To make
matters worse, Galaxy were rubbish. Yet McClaren brought him back into the England fold
and Fabio Capello kept him there. Despite his waning powers, a fourth World Cup
appearance appeared assured until...
David Beckham the man is still alive and well, and Early
Doors would bet you haven't heard the last of him. But in the shallow world of
sport, he is dead - unless he decides to get his coaching badges and launch an
unsuccessful career in management. Six months out at his age (nearly 35) is a life
sentence for his England
career, as he will certainly not be at Euro 2012. Whether or not he returns to
MLS action, it hardly matters.
David Beckham's legend status is assured, even if at times
it was hard to separate the footballer from the hype machine.
He finishes as England's second most-capped player of all time, and the winner of six Premierships, two FA Cup, a Champions League, a Liga and an MLS Western Conference title. He is also the man who popularised the word 'metatarsal'.
And a nice twist of fate allowed him to attend his own wake
before his funeral, as he said goodbye to Manchester United in grand and
tearful fashion last week.
What Becks does next is anyone's guess. Although if that yellow
and green scarf at Old Trafford means anything, he could have a career as a Red
Knight ahead of him.
- - -
QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND: Jose Mourinho ahead of Inter's Champions League second
leg at Chelsea: "Everybody knows
Mourinho doesn't lose at Stamford
Bridge. My record is
unbeatable. It is amazing - we were so strong for such a long time."
ED feels an overwhelming urge to tack some Mike
Tyson on to the end of that: "(Carlo Ancelotti), I'm coming for
you man. My style is impetuous. My defense is impregnable, and I'm just
ferocious. I want your heart. I want to eat his children."
FOREIGN VIEW: Think Wayne Rooney is the best player in the world? Guess again.
Lionel Messi scored an outrageous hat-trick against Valencia
to put Barcelona
top of La Liga for a couple of hours, before a ridiculous Cristiano Ronaldo
free-kick returned Real Madrid to the summit.
El Mundo Deportivo's take on Messi: "You are the
AS's take on Ronaldo: "Tomahawk"
COMING UP: Portsmouth show Liverpool what it really means to be a crisis club when
the teams do battle at Anfield tonight. Liverpool v Portsmouth
is at 20:00 UK