Monday, 9 February 2009

Beckham the great…discuss

George Best once delivered a scathing assessment of David Beckham.

"He (Beckham) cannot kick with his left foot, he cannot head a ball, he cannot tackle and he doesn't score many goals. Apart from that he's all right," said the Northern Ireland great.

Best made his withering attack when nominated to collect the World Player of the Year runner-up award on behalf of Beckham in 2000.

Fellow professionals of his generation still argue Best, at his peak, would have graced any era and so we assume the former Manchester United favourite was well qualified to make his facetious dig.

And while it is always dangerous to compare players from different periods, one wonders what another former England captain, Bobby Moore, would make of Beckham equalling his outfield appearances record of 108 if he plays against Spain on Wednesday.

Few would argue Beckham has been, and still is, a good player - but can we really consider him a great as this potential landmark would suggest?

Fabio Capello cast doubt on his own judgement this week when he preferred to talk about Beckham the "media star" and it is true his profile dictates the 33-year-old will always generate headlines, front and back.

Ryan Giggs asserted he wanted to be successful rather than famous when asked about his former Old Trafford team-mate's inclination to court the catwalks as part of his brand Beckham agenda.

Seasoned United fans remember Beckham fondly but it is fair to argue he is not mentioned in the same breath as, say, Eric Cantona, whose name is still chanted.

Sir Alex Ferguson never bought into Beckham's thirst for fame and their strained relationship led to the wily Scot sanctioning his sale to Real Madrid in 2003. It is curious Ferguson was not so agreeable when the Spanish champions came knocking again last summer for Beckham's eventual successor, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Beckham is currently enjoying a new lease of life with AC Milan and has made no secret of his desire to end his brief flirtation with America's MLS and clinch a permanent move to the San Siro to stay on the radar of Capello in the hope of playing at his fourth World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

Now the wrong side of 30, the routine pace of Serie A unquestionably suits Beckham's passing game and his recent impressive form means he merits his latest call-up.

He remains a technically accomplished footballer and well liked by the same England fans who hung an effigy of him outside a London pub on the back of his and the country's acrimonious exit from the 1998 World Cup.

But, somehow, Beckham the great does not ring true.

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