David Beckham: A true professional

England legend David Beckham

David Beckham’s glittering career has come to a close, after the English midfielder announced his retirement at the end of the season. The 38-year-old has had one of the most illustrious, glamorous, successful careers in English football history. But behind the photo shoots and the red carpet appearances, was a hard-working winner.

A trainee at his boyhood club Manchester United, Beckham couldn’t dream past playing professionally for the side, not even think about becoming captain of his country. Awarded a professional contract with the side in 1993, it wasn’t until 1996 that the Englishman made his name known, with just one 50-yard kick of a ball. The opening day of the season, Beckham spotted Wimbledon goalkeeper Neil Sullivan off his line, and lobbed the goalkeeper from the halfway line. It was the goal of the season, before 90 minutes had even been played that campaign.

Beckham continued to work hard, winning a Premier League medal with United before being crowned the PFA Young Player of the Year award in 1997. Beckham was also rewarded for his efforts by being given the number 7 shirt, from the retiring Eric Cantona. The boy from London was then handed a place in the England squad for the 1998 World Cup, where after scoring against Columbia in the group stage, he would start against old rivals Argentina in quarterfinals. But the United star was about to lose the love of his fans. Following a kick-out at Diego Simeone, Beckham was sent off, and with just 10 men on the field, England were knocked out of the tournament.

The English media slated Beckham for that. ‘The man that was responsible for England’s exit’, the United star was criticised by the press and many England fans for his mistake. But it was key to Beckham’s career. The Manchester United number 7 had to work hard to clean his name, and remained focused on improving himself for the benefit of the team. His rewards came a year later, winning the iconic treble. The Premier League, FA Cup and European Cup were all lifted by Beckham, who was runner-up to Rivaldo in the World Player of the Year awards. He was a global celebrity, and was in every showbiz magazine after he married Spice Girl Victoria Adams, which added to the superstar personality following him.

But it was in 2001 where Beckham truly redeemed himself on the international stage. Forgiven by nearly everyone, Beckham was part of THAT incredible 5-1 victory over Germany in the 2002 World Cup qualifiers. That led to England knowing that a draw or win over Greece would guarantee them a place in the tournament, whilst a loss would mean they would go into the play-offs. Trailing 2-1 with just 1 minute left on the clock, it looked over for England. But David Beckham took centre stage. His curling, dipping, perfect free kick in the last minute of the game levelled the scores for England, and sent them to the World Cup. Beckham was the hero. All previous misdemeanours had seemed forgotten about, and he was now England’s laudable captain.

2003 was a mixed year for the boyhood United fan. Beckham’s career at United began to be questioned, as reports emerged claiming that manager Sir Alex Ferguson had accidentally kicked a boot into the midfielder’s face, in frustration at his side’s FA Cup defeat to Arsenal. While off the pitch Beckham was awarded an OBE for his services to football, another mark of his hard work and commitment to improving himself. But then the midfielder was shown the door at Old Trafford, following suggestions that Ferguson was growing tired of the midfielder’s celebrity status away from the field.

And so, Beckham had to leave his boyhood club, and joined Real Madrid in the summer of 2003. With the world glued to David Beckham, photographers and showbiz “journalists” tried to discover as much of the star’s lifestyle as they could. And despite his former personal assistant Rebecca Loos accusing the midfielder of having a four-month affair with her, Beckham remained focused on his football, and continued to play for Real Madrid. In his last season with the Spanish giants he eventually won a La Liga title, before leaving for America.

Beckham joined LA Galaxy, where he said he wanted to promote ‘soccer’ more in America. His profile was once again boosted, as he, and his wife Victoria, were often photographed with A-list movie stars, whilst he continued to market himself as a fashion icon. But he sustained his hard work on the field, scoring on his Galaxy debut, and earned his 100th cap for England. Beckham enjoyed loan spells with AC Milan during the MLS Off-season, but it was in Italy where his World Cup dream ended. Becks tore his Achilles tendon, and was ruled out of the 2010 World Cup. He eventually travelled with the team as part of the backroom staff, and acted as a motivator for the players.

David went on to win the MLS cup in 2011 and 2012, but had plenty of distractions in between. After playing a big role in helping London win the vote to host the 2012 Olympic games, Beckham then went on to promote the event, as well as carry the torch towards the Olympic stadium in the opening ceremony. He was also very public in his disappointment in not being selected for the GB football team, and instead went back to play for Galaxy in the MLS season. Beckham won his 2nd MLS Cup in 2012, where he announced he would be leaving the Californian team.

French side PSG were the final team that David Beckham played for. Despite being mainly used as a substitute, not to anyone’s real surprise, Beckham was part of the squad that won the Ligue 1 title this season, where he became the first British player to be crowned a champion in 4 different countries. It was then in May where the global icon decided to hang up his boots, and retire from football.

The man who was “more interested in being a celebrity”, and “more focused on his showbiz lifestyle with his Spice Girl wife”, put aside all the criticisms, and earned his career. An inspiration to millions of youngsters, Beckham worked hard to win his 115 international caps, his 10 league winners’ medals, and a whole host of individual awards. He was never the most giftedly talented player in the team. He couldn’t dribble like Giggs, or score goals like Cantona. But he worked exceptionally hard on his crossing, making him one of the most deadly crossers from set pieces or the wing in British football.

He made himself one of the best free kick takers in the world, and focused on strengthening himself into one of the most successful footballers England has produced. He may enjoy posing in his underwear, or being spotted with Tom Cruise. But the passion shown in his interview when he stepped down as England captain shows alone what David’s priority was. A leader both on the pitch, and by example on the training field, Beckham always put football first, and despite the hype and attention, was a true professional.