It is an exciting yet nerve racking time for the seemingly countless clubs who want David Beckham. Beckham is yet to make a decision as to which club he would like to move to, but it is obvious that with Beckham on the move, possibly this January, with a number of offers on his table, there is money to be made, contracts to be signed, merchandise to be sold.
While the question on everyone’s lips is where will he decide to go, another important question is assuming he did go there, how would he fare? How would his swan song as a professional soccer player play out?
While all of us could make educated guesses, the utilization of technology to analyze the possibilities that Beckham faces, and what could ensue as a result of him hypothetically moving to any of the clubs linked to him, is more likely to be accurate than any guess we could ever make.
In an era where the lack of technology in soccer is criticized time and again as the consequences of this deficiency has become all too apparent in key games in the World Cup in 2010 and the Euros in 2012, it is important to understand that this lack of technology is not because it does not exist or is not developed to the point of being usable; but because the existing technology is not being utilized to its fullest capacity.
For instance, take Football Manager. This soccer management simulation computer game allows you to take control of what is for soccer fanatics around the world essentially the greatest job on earth. Over the years, Football Manager has not only been given a better interface and a newer look, but the sheer depth and comprehensiveness of the player database, the abilities you are given and the complexities you face as the manager of a soccer club has developed immensely and is simply astounding.
That being said, not only have there been instances of people hired to manage soccer clubs based on how they fared in Football Manager, but clubs have understood that through Football Manager, they have access to an enormous pool of scouts to rely on to spot talented players across the world. For instance, Premier League side Everton signed a deal with Sports Interactive in 2008 to use their ever-growing database to scout real players and staff. It is increasingly apparent that what some people might consider “just another video game”, to others is a functional, useful tool to help them do their jobs.
Assuming that Football Manager is a legitimate soccer management simulation program taking the above examples into consideration, the question is, can Football Manager correctly predict what would happen to players assuming they went to certain soccer clubs? Could this be applied to David Beckham’s impending move as he picks what could potentially be his last club as a professional soccer player?
Sports Interactive recently undertook multiple simulations utilizing the latest version of their in-depth simulation game series, Football Manager 13, to see how Beckham would perform at each club, and how his swan song played out in each instance.
With Beckham linked with a number of clubs all over the world – from France to China, Australia to most recently the Middle East, seven clubs were picked – Real Madrid, AC Milan, Queens Park Rangers, Shanghai Shenua, AS Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United – and Beckham’s last few years were created at each of the above clubs. Beckham’s player attributes at each of these clubs reflected his performance at the club in how he was either given more time on the pitch to maintain his ability at his age, or not given time on the pitch to see his ability deteriorate.
At Real Madrid, one of the most unlikely candidates for Beckham’s last years as a player, Beckham would struggle to earn a place in a star-studded midfield with Kaka, Modric, Alonso, and Ozil amongst others. In this simulation, Beckham made three appearances in his first season but eventually was not able to match the standard expected at an incredibly competitive club like Real Madrid, with an equally competitive manager in Jose Mourinho.
At AC Milan, while the club had been forced to sell a number of their key players (Zlatan Ibrahimovi? and Thiago Silva to PSG, for instance) due to financial reasons, the ageing Beckham did not provide a solution for head coach Massimiliano Allegri’s problems, and made only 6 first-team appearances before dropping to the reserves and retiring during the 2013-14 season.
At Queens Park Rangers, Beckham manages to help Harry Redknapp’s side stay up in the Premier League, putting in a number of great performances, but eventually is dropped by the 2013-14 season as Redknapp decides to play a 4-4-2 diamond formation that leaves Beckham out of the starting lineup very frequently. By the end of this simulation, Beckham was increasingly unhappy and wanted to leave the club.
At Shanghai Shenua, Beckham’s brand name boosted the sales of merchandise and tickets to games in the Chinese Super League, with ex-Chelsea striker Didier Drogba and Beckham consistently putting out above-average performances. Beckham provides 17 assists in his debut season, and is still playing regular first-team soccer constantly at the end of the simulation – something he hasn’t done at any of the other clubs. However, with the Shanghai side being unbalanced in their lack of quality players besides Drogba and Beckham, Shenua finish in 9th.
At AS Monaco, Beckham becomes Monaco’s best player quite easily as the club is languishing in the Ligue 2, and subsequently puts out a number of above-average performances, creating 11 assists and helping Monaco win the Ligue 2. In the 2013-14 season, Monaco finish 10th with Beckham making 27 appearances over the course of the season. By the end of the simulation, Beckham has become a fan favorite of sorts at the club.
At Paris Saint-Germain, Beckham’s brand name would generate a global interest in the club but would make regular first-team appearances only till the end of the 2012-13 season. With PSG winning the Ligue 1, Beckham would eventually lose out his position to Jeremy Menez and Ezequiel Lavezzi, and makes a mere 5 appearances for the club in the 2013-14 season.
And at Manchester United, Beckham makes a handful of appearances as a backup to Nani, doing reasonably well as Manchester United finish second to their cross-town rivals Manchester City. Beckham is left out of Sir Alex Ferguson’s plans for the 2013-14 season, and subsequently announces his retirement.
The results were surprisingly accurate to the extent of what could possibly happen if Beckham, hypothetically speaking, did move to any of the aforementioned clubs.
If Beckham did move to Real Madrid, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester United, it is quite apparent that he would do no more than a bit-part role, and the simulations were accurate in their results, but for the most obvious anomaly of Beckham making regular first-team appearances for PSG – many would argue that at his age and considering PSG’s lofty ambitions, Beckham would not be able to either replace Menez or Lavezzi even in his first season at PSG.
The QPR simulation is also an accurate analysis of what would possibly happen – Beckham would get half-a-season at the most at QPR, and the sheer positivity that his presence at a club like QPR would undoubtedly help them in their bid to stay in the Premier League. But he would not be in their long term plans, considering their ambitions to become a force to reckon with in the Premier League.
The Shanghai Shenua and Monaco simulations are both exceedingly possible in how Beckham gets constant first-team action at the former but plays an important role in the rise of the latter through the French leagues. With Monaco filled with residents who are all multi-millionaires, Beckham and Victoria would fit in seamlessly. The short distance to their homes in England would also be an obvious advantage as well.
That being said, it is important to point out that while the simulations could be accurate, they do not take into account the reasons for which Beckham would move to any of these clubs. For instance, while Beckham’s star presence would undoubtedly be welcomed at Real Madrid, the chances of him moving their are close to nil considering Mourinho would not be interested in buying a 37-year old midfielder and Real Madrid have plenty of star players as it is. Similarly, Beckham moving back to Manchester United is very unlikely and would be shocking to say the least.
It is hard to guess which club Beckham is going to go to – and once he does pick a club, the reasons behind his decision will become all too apparent – but will his last stint as a soccer player play out as any of the above simulations did? Only time will tell.Published 11 Dec 2012, 15:35 IST