Who is the greatest footballer of all time? We know you’ve had this argument with your friends hundreds of times, and we also know that these arguments haven’t always ended on non-violent terms. So we’re here to make things simpler (or possibly, make them considerably more complicated). Starting today, Sportskeeda is going to announce a list of the 20 greatest footballers of all time. And yes, we’re prepared to take both the bouquets and the rotten tomatoes.
No. 20 – David Beckham
The man with the golden touch and a touted mane. Those inch-perfect crosses and the classic free-kicks. The best shirt salesman and a slippery boot. A pop icon for a wife and a squeaky voice. All of the above fail to describe the phenomenon that is David Beckham.
With a career spanning close to two decades of first-team football, the most recognizable face in modern sports is still first-team material. He had humble roots, as evidenced by the fact that he had a hairdresser for a mother and a handyman father, but that didn’t stop him from becoming the globally adored personality that he is today.
Beckham’s introduction to the beautiful game dates back to his childhood, when his parents used to take him along for Manchester United games, a team they wholeheartedly supported. His first real encounter with the game came at the Bobby Charlton football school, where he won the chance to attend a training session at FC Barcelona. He then went on to try out for his local club Leyton Orient, before landing up at Tottenham Hotspur. He played for a couple of years at Brimsdown Rovers, where he bagged the under-15 player of the year award in 1990. On his fourteenth birthday, Beckham signed up for a youth training scheme at his future club, Manchester United.
From then on, history was written with every move that he made; the limelight followed the Manchester United Winger, who made his Premier League debut in 1995, wherever he went. The Jersey number 7 was forever associated with a certain Eric Cantona, and many wanted the number to retire with him, but Beckham had other plans. His position in the United side gave him the liberty to introduce the world to an array of laser guided passes and colour seeking crosses. He finally broke into the national side at the Euro 1996. He also managed to score from his own half, against Wimbledon in 1996, when their then goalkeeper, Sullivan, was caught unawares.
His temper also made the headlines, especially during the 1998 France World Cup, where he was sent off and eventually faced the ire of an entire nation for England’s exit.That didn’t hold him back though, as he proved to be a vital powerhouse that saw United win the Treble (Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League) in 1999. But the damage had been done, the English weren’t very happy. And this opinion stayed put till Beckham took England to the World Cup in 2002, with a last gasp free-kick against Greece.
In 1999, Beckham decided to formalize his relationship with Victoria ‘Posh’ Adams. The popular Spice Girl that she was, glamour was inevitably a part of the ceremony. The media attention lavished on the Beckhams led to several unpleasant consequences and the infamous shoe-gate is suspected to be a result of the cumulative frustration Sir Alex Ferguson was facing. Beckham’s image as a celebrity spilled over to his football and the uber-cool metrosexual saw stiff resistance from all quarters. His endorsements may have spelt economic success, but it cost him dearly on many occasions. The media took it up as a challenge to find faults and put the winger under a microscope more often than once. His alleged sexcapades came as a shock against the image of the doting father of four, but he rose above the criticism and let his boot answer the tabloids.
His graph in the premier events continued to remain volatile, especially with his penalty misses in the hotly contested England-France game in Euro 2004. His luck continued to evade him and his miss in the quarters saw his team pack their bags early.
In 2003, he was appointed Officer in the Order of the British Empire by the Queen. Meanwhile, his days at United had been numbered after the incident with Ferguson, and after a lot of speculation of a Barcelona move, he ended up joining their arch rivals, Real Madrid, in the summer of 2003 for $35 million. Here, he became a part of the group called the Galacticos, along with the likes of Raul and Zidane, and this was the chance of a lifetime for him. The number of goals he scored here may not have been too impressive, but the number of his assists was. In the year of 2005, he led the La Liga in the assists department.
His move to the United States was the move of an ageing athlete, which many saw as a cashing-in scheme. He joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007 for $32.5 million over five years and interestingly, his signing amount was spread over the entirety of the MLS, as this transfer was perceived to be a shot in the arm for the league.
David Beckham brought to LA what he gave every club he had played for – gigantic returns on shirt sales. Even the firm that owns the LA Galaxy saw a notable spike in sales. This was the effect the man had on the industry, where his every move trickled down to the most unsuspecting bystanders.
His loan in the off-season to AC Milan ruined his reputation withthe Galaxy faithful because of an injury he sustained, but he had already seen disappointment having failed to qualify for the end of season play-offs in the MLS. The next few years he managed to pull up the Galaxy to number one in the Western Conference and eventually won the MLS Cup in 2011. His five-year contract ended in 2012, but he has since renewed it with a two-year extension.
Almost everyone has an opinion about David Beckham, and the negatives have started to outweigh the positives. His tattoos were the talk of the town and his movies just wouldn’t stop. ‘Golden Balls’ was a media dream. But one thing is for certain – David Beckham brought his club, country and his talent to the fore. His breath-taking ability and his persona cannot be duplicated. He showed how a business sense can make a career and how a star can be bankable both on and off the field. Let’s hope his children follow in their father’s footsteps, and give us another Beckham, albeit with an unorthodox first name.
Here’s a video that encapsulates the greatness of the man:
Check out all the players in this list here: