What Now For David Beckham?

Fabio Capello was always going to have a challenging decision to make about David Beckham.  After an up and down season with the LA Galaxy and a more down than up loan stint with AC Milan, Beckham was hoping that his experience and dressing room leadership would allow him to join the England team in South Africa.  With his opportunity to play this summer ruptured along with his Achilles tendon, Beckham has a more dramatic question to face – does he ever suit up in a professional soccer uniform again?

Achilles tendon injuries are among the most difficult wounds from which a player can recover.  The tendon needs to be surgically reattached and it is usually six weeks before the heel can be allowed to bear any weight.  Occasionally, an elite athlete can return to full training after 3-4 months, but it often takes six months or more to become fully fit and mobile after the injury.  By that time, the World Cup will have long disappeared below the horizon in the rear view mirror and the LA Galaxy will only have a month left in their regular season.

For Beckham, the list of major sporting opportunities has now significantly narrowed.  Beyond a cameo appearance to wave to the crowd at friendly at Wembly, he is unlikely to ever kit up for the England team again.  Loan opportunities with major clubs in the January – May window are hard to come by for 35 year olds who have not played very much in the previous nine months.  The only team that really wants him back on the pitch is the Galaxy, and at this point, it will be more for the replica shirts and tickets he sells rather than his skill at the game.

With this injury, Beckham is looking at two roads.  On one road, there is a painful and difficult rehab process for him to get match fit again so that he can join the Los Angeles Galaxy for a month or two, and then endure the long MLS off-season so that he can play out the last season of his contract.  For that last season, Beckham will be 36 years old and his role as an every-day player will be in serious jeopardy.  For the fans that expected his fourth World Cup to be a crowning ending to his career, this road resembles more of a slow fade than a grand exit.

The other road is that of retirement.  Beckham has always played his best when he has something to prove, but with the issue about whether he can play at all in doubt, is that enough of a motivating factor?  Tribute games with Manchester United and perhaps the Galaxy await.  Commentator jobs, promotional tours and brand management will consume his time.  Perhaps he could even buy into MLS ownership like he has intimated in the past.  It will be cushy and non-controversial, but very sedate compared to the drama he has experienced over the past 15 years.

My prediction is that Beckham opts for the harder road.  For better, and occasionally for worse, Beckham has demanded that his career bend to his will.  Through force of will, he rehabilitated his career as a Manchester hero, English international, Real Madrid star and American success story.  Whatever you think of Beckham, he has been a master at being able to write his own story.  I doubt he will permit his story to end with him falling in a heap and being carried off the San Siro pitch in a stretcher.

However, it will be a hard road.  It will take a lot of training room sweat and tears before Beckham can be kicking a ball again.  During that long process, Beckham will have a lot of time to plan for the final moment he wants for himself on the pitch – a moment when he walks off waving to a crowd that is thanking him for his contributions to the soccer world.

35 thoughts on “What Now For David Beckham?”

    1. David Beckham got complete strangers talking about soccer and definitely put the sport on the map in this country. Even the foreign press used to ignore Major League Soccer, but ever since Beckham moved over, they’ve been covering it in more detail (although not nearly as much as they should).

      Has Beckham been a massive success in America? Definitely not. But he has gotten more people interested in the sport here.

      The Gaffer

      1. I can’t say I agree, Gaffer. A variety of factors have led to more mainstream media covering the sport, and I don’t think any of them has to do with Beckham. Between FSC and ESPN, we’ve now had several years of access to watching the world’s best on a weekly basis. Combine that with ESPN’s rights to the World Cup and their interest in promoting the sport, which they are increasingly doing, and there you have what I see as primary catalysts for increased interest. In addition, the US’ victory over Spain gave the sport a big boost, as a lot of casual fans all of a sudden wanted to jump on the bandwagon.

        While I believe Beckham’s arrival here in the US spurred a short-term interest from the mainstream media, including plenty of derision, I don’t think there is any evidence to suggest he put the sport on the map here.

        I don’t dislike Beckham, and he deserves credit for wanting to help grow the sport in the US. But, calling his time here in the US a success story seems a stretch. It certainly has been successful for his bank account, though.

    2. When Backham came back to the Galaxy in July, he was booed by Galaxy fans for his lack of commitement to the team. Three months later, he was cheered by those same fans as the Galaxy went on to the MLS final. This is Beckham’s unique skill – being able to overcome doubters and prove himself a success no matter what difficulty.

      1. +1.

        It also annoys me to know end that nobody seems to appreciate what he brings to the game. Always gives his all and still could’ve given a ton to the England squad in the last 20 minutes but EVERYWHERE he’s gone people have tried their best to explain why he’ll fail, or why he needs to get out of the England squad permanently. McClaren made it is first order of business to drop him from the squad. Doubters everywhere.

        And now this outpouring of praise and sympathy. This isn’t directed at you Eric but I’d almost rather his detractors stay on the sidelines and shut up now than act as if they were ever fans of his.

  1. Eric,

    Great writing in a piece that does a fine job in asking questions on Beckham’s future as a footballer and or his involvment in football. Enjoyed that.

  2. Like the article, but why do your posts cover the whole page of EPL???

    I can’t see Beckham coming back from that. At his age, it’s a career ender and that is a shame.

  3. Having been in almost every England squad during the qualification campaign it seems quite clear that Beckham would have been selected for the 23-man squad for South Africa. While his game has declined somewhat in recent years his ability on the ball (particularly his passing and crossing) remained undimmed and Capello seemed to have recognised that value. He wasn’t going to be a first-XI selection but would have played at some stage during the tournament.

    Watching him play in the MLS for the last few years I have been struck by how much time on the ball he appeared to have compared to those around him. He has a very subtle footballing style which means that sometimes his contribution is under-rated by the casual observer. In the 4 games I saw him play live for the Galaxy he was easily the most talented footballer on the pitch but that alone does not win games.

    Above all else, in an age when the arrogance and vanity of many professional footballers has outgrown their talent, it was always clear that Beckham genuinely loved the game and had a modesty about him that made him extremely likeable. It’s been clear that he had set his heart on playing in the World Cup this year and that dream now seems to be over. However, given his unquestioned enthusiasm for the game I do expect to see him playing for the Galaxy for a 2011 farewell season and the MLS will be richer for that.

    1. Couldn’t agree with this post more. I definitely count myself a Beckham fan, and am hoping that he is able to see out this injury and come back to play another season, somewhere, somehow. He is a subtle footballer, aside from the astounding free kicks, who was never going to be the type of player that could have captured the attention of casual football fans enough to truly push MLS further into mainstream American sports coverage, but did his best to try, albeit with mixed results. I will greatly remember this past MLS final where, obviously struggling with injury and grimacing in pain, he dutifully stepped up and nailed his penalty kick, while a healthy Landycakes chose to let the wind take his kick for him.

      There remains no one in my mind that can provide a better long pass across the pitch than Becks, which has always been a joy to observe. He saw runs develop and spots open up that others could not, and made me appreciate the finer details of the way a match flows the same way that Steve Nash helped me gain a new level of respect for the point guard position in the NBA.

      I wish Becks the best, and hope he makes a full recovery.

  4. This is a very sad turn of events for Beckham. Was hoping to see him on the pitch in New Jersey when the Galaxy play the Red Bulls this year. I hope he comes back for the last year of his contract then rides off into the setting sun.

  5. Hmm sad news indeed – that will teach me for watching a whole Serie A game which I never do but I watched this one.
    Had hoped to see him turn out against DC United in the Summer but thats
    highly unlikely now. Had also hoped he’d make the England squad simply because I like him – I cant say that about a lot of the England squad but Beckham is truly likable and works hard and really wanted to go.
    Now I have to watch the likes of Ashley, Terry, Gerrard (who no longer inspires confidence as he dives so much and should have been found guilty this Summer), Fat Frank, Rio…. Pls god Theo and Milner go as they are genuinely nice guys. Rooney is a great player but a foul mouthed git at the same time.
    Sad day for England and the MLS , and Milan.

  6. I could be wrong but I doubt Becks will want to end his England career crying on a Milan pitch. He will either want a proper send off in a friendly after the WC or he may even make himself available for Euro 2012 qualifying. It depends (1) If he ever regains full fitness (2) on who is managing England after the World Cup.

    1. Whilst I agree with this to a certain extent, think back to last week’s game between Manchester United and AC Milan. If that turns out to be Beckham’s last match on English soil then I think he would be quite happy to have gone out to such a warm reception from the Manchester United fans.

      His dream was to play in the World Cup finals so I’m not sure he will be back for a ceremonial England performance. If Steve McLaren had his way Beckham would not have played for Englan again after 2006 but he proved the doubters wrong and did make a contribution over the last few years even if it wasn’t as a starting player.

  7. Becks, in my opinion, should be nowhere near the England WC squad. Too old, lost his legs, not really going to trouble a World Class defender, is he? With the likes of Walcott, Lennon, Young, Milner, Joe Cole and Wright-Phillips, he can’t really compete.
    With that said, why in the sodding hell is Emile Heskey still being considered? Carlton Cole does his job, only better. He can now score goals.

    Point is, his time has passed lads. Let him create David Beckham Football Club and move on.

    1. Beckham is not paid to trouble defenders with his pace, he is for his crosses, corners, and free-kicks. Walcott? He has pace but he has proven most of this season, he has nothing else to offer near the 18 yard box. Lennon, Wright, and Young, can blow past defenders but promptly give the punters in row z a souvenir football with their “crossing.” Carlton Cole: He looks like a striker, he runs like a striker, his name even rhymes with “goal”. He simply doesn’t have that killer instinct/sharpness in front of goal that world class strikers need. I don’t know if he ever will. Should Becks have started in S. Africa? No, but what an option it would’ve been to have when England “runs” out of ideas. Heskey is there to hold the ball up more than he is to score goals.

      1. That’s not what Gerrard and Lampard can do, eh? Both have fantastic set-piece ability, so that point is moot. Walcott can score goals. Especially when he’s gained full-fitness, and is given the games to gain match sharpness. Same with all of the other wingers on that list. Lennon’s crossing is much improved, and Young has always had the ability to cross. Milner as well.
        I think you’ll find Carlton Cole is finding his feet quite well this season. Like I said before. He does Heskey’s job, only better. He can score goals.
        Beckham should not be included in the squad. God willing, he won’t be. And, hopefully we’ll hoist our second World Cup.

        1. I’m not saying the English team is dead in the water without Becks. Gerrard, Lampard, my Grannie, can take free-kicks. None of them can whip in a cross like an aging Beckham. He still has the sweetest left foot in football. Walcott can score goals like I can exercise – they’re both possible but just don’t happen often enough. Lennon’s crossing has improved, it couldn’t have gotten any worst after all. Carlton Cole has been playing football professionally for years and he just “found” his feet? There is a reason he’s playing for West Ham not Chelsea. Your God has spoken, Beckham will not be there.

        2. BRN442 – glad to see someone knows his football , unlike hammerin’ man ( but then he’s not had the chance to see much at upton park this season ). The idea of beckham , outside of his experience and positive influence he brought to the team , was to have him to bring him on with 20 mins to go, stick crouchie up front and get balls in the box …..when all else had failed after 70 mins , when Shaun wright phillips had run himself into the ground ( literally) , when walcott hadnt been able to deliver one good ball , and gerrard had looked nothing like the great player he is for liverpool. England would have won games without Beckham for sure , and they still will , but it is almost a certainty that at some point , qtr or semi , we will be in need of 1 goal , and nearly all of England and one very smart italian manager will be wishing we had a fit beckham to try something different. Unfortunately , we will never know now……..

          1. You don’t know anything about football, and neither does he, you Beckham fanboy cretins. Don’t delude yourself please. Beckham the sweetest right foot in world football, don’t make me laugh you sycophant.

  8. The loss of David Beckham is going to be a huge blow for England. In today’s modern game, the difference between teams is often one goal and it often comes from a set play. And the master of the set play was David Beckham. No one in the world is as accurate as Beckham.

    My personal pick for a replacement for Beckham is Adam Johnson, but I’d like to see if he can continue his good run of form between now and the end of the season to see if he really deserves the spot.

    The Gaffer

    1. I think England will be missing the veteran leadership more than anything, especially with the whole John Terry stuff going on. Nothing agianst Beckham but I cant realistically see him being more than a specalty sub. I think he would of made the team but im skeptical what his role would of been.

      What are your thoughts on Joe Cole or the 2 Midfielders from Aston possibly being in the fray? (I know Capello hasn’t called upon Cole yet)

    2. Gaffer –

      You and I have disagreed about this one, and whether Capello would have ultimately found a place for Beckham on his squad is now a question that will never be answered. However, I think Beckham’s set pieces have regressed over the past few years. Frankly, if England had a key set piece opportunity late in the game, I have the strong sense it would have been Gerrard lining up for the shot whether Beckham was on the field or not.

    3. ‘cept Johnson plays on the left and is a left pegger. Beckham on the opposite flank. Lest we desire to not cross the ball, and cut in, thusly making us very narrow in the process.

      1. Johnson did really well on the right wing against Sunderland on Sunday. If not Johnson, who would you recommend? Lennon is doubtful due to injury. And Wright-Phillips can’t cross a ball.

        The Gaffer

        1. Not saying he won’t do well. Simply saying, that as a West Ham supporter, I find it frustrating when players are played on their weaker side. Zola has done this all season, and it has been crap. I prefer we play our players on their strong sides.

  9. Beckham was somewhat sucessful, I don’t know if I’d say it was a sucess story but he was far from a failure. I don’t dislike the guy but most Americans who don’t follow the sport closely look at it like this:

    -Americans seem generally have the what have you done for me lately and have you won championships type of mindset. Beckham hasn’t won any MLS championships and hasn’t scored many goals so to the average person who dosn’t know much about a game sees him as a big money failure that only put fans in seats.

    With that said the average americans that he was trying to attract dont realize Beckham was never a big goal scorer or one to carry a team. Many view him as a failure and we are a little bit better off than square one where we started off.
    The only way to expand the sport is through US success in the world cup. And sadly if the US makes it 2-3 rounds in it should be viewed somewhat sucessful but again the average amarican who dosn’t know much about the sport wont realize this and write off US soccer as a total failure cause we weren’t able to dominate the world.
    It all comes down to the general ignorance of the sport and the sporting competitions. Americans aren’t properly educated in soccer so they form ignorant opinions and take that as fact than write off any educated opinions as well “ooh american football is better anyway”.

    In reality, the USA TV coverage is still a joke. The networks wanna spend as little as they can to expand the coverage. ESPN would rather pay 4 writers a minimum salarty and have shows like PTI where old sports writers than argue than shell out money for a big soccer game. So most get stuck paying extra for channels like FSP, Fox sports, Goal TV, or have to buy EPL/MLS packages. This knocks most of the younger market out of the sport and continues a struggle to grow the sport.

    This whole subject of growing the sport in america sours me, sorry. Hope Becks gets well soon….

  10. I feel Beckham never got the credit he deserved…u can go on and on arguing that he’s all about marketing but u can’t deny the fact that he is where he is now because of his footballing talent…u don’t become a footballer overnight just because you’re pretty…I feel he’s been made the scapegoat far too many times for all of his teams’ failings…he’s pretty,accept it and move on…u don’t have to discredit the footballing ability he has…but the best thing about this guy is he just seems to prove everybody wrong everytime they try to take him down….he combines sheer passion and hard work and u always know you’re gonna get 110% from him on the field…ppl can argue tht he cant dribble or head the ball….but how many can actually cross a ball or take a freekick like him??….in this modern football world…its nice to see players such as this guy who is committed as ever everytime he plays…definitely a model professional and I certainly put him above the likes of Ashley Cole…well done Becks…just keep proving them all wrong..

    1. You don’t see him playing in the MLS with any of that. No passion, not a care in the world. He couldn’t be arsed to actually play in the states. He don’t give a toss about football stateside.

  11. Hammerin Man….I don’t know coz i’ve nvr watched games stateside….but if you look at his entire career….what you’re saying totally makes no sense….even now he’s not d swashbuckling Beckham of old like against Greece in 2002…I think its gotta do more with his age n his playin style has changed as well….look at Scholes as an example….so I think to say he doesn’t care is a bit harsh…if doesn’t want to he doesn’t nid to play…he can just do a Bogarde n sit on the bench while collecting his wages….he’s not gonna be affected in any way…he still gets his pay…..but from wat I can see…it is totally contrary to wat u said….the desire can be seen even if his legs are giving way…n I think he’s proven it more than once….wen ur successful as he is…ur bound to have detractors

    1. To be honest, you could see where Hammerin’ Man was coming from with his very first comment. He’s a hater through and through and in an article discussing Beckham’s footballing future in general (with his participation in anything related to the NT being all but done now) he still felt the need to mention that he should be nowhere near the squad. Not only is he wrong, but it isn’t really the issue anymore.

      I’d say ignore him.

      1. Let’s look at Beckham’s tournament record.

        1998 – sent off versus Argentina
        2000- hardly had an impact at all
        2002 jumped out of a tackle which led to Rivaldo’s equaliser
        2004 – missed penalties versus France AND Portugal, the latter miles over the bar in a shootout
        2006- went off the park crying his eyes out at 0-0 in a WC QF, so sleifhs
        2008 – not many know this but he gave the ball to the Croatians which led to the third goal which eliminated England.

        THAT is a horrendous tournament record, and one late free-kick against Greece after he missed countless others does not change that. You Beckham sycophants can never criticse your golden boy however, given how deeply enamoured you are with him. In your reply you will simply overlook all these damaging events which cost England as a result of Beckham, because ypu have some sort of love for him.

        Frankly, it makes my skin crawl, and yes, you were 100% wrong. Beckham or no Beckham what transpired in South Africa was always going to happen (as I predicted) because your squad is hideously overrated.

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