x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Nomad Beckham may regret move

On the sixth anniversary of his departure from Old Trafford bound for Estadio Bernabeu, it would be interesting to know whether, in his heart of hearts, David Beckham ever regrets his decision to become a football nomad.

On the sixth anniversary of his departure from Old Trafford bound for Estadio Bernabeu, it would be interesting to know whether, in his heart of hearts, David Beckham ever regrets his decision to become a football nomad. It is not a question worth posing to Mrs Beckham; "Are you joking?" you can almost hear the erstwhile Spice Girl trill. With her singing career in an inexorable tailspin, the image conscious Victoria - who always found the north of England a dowdy backwater - has since set up home in Madrid, Los Angeles (where she mixed with the Hollywood glitterati including Tom Cruise and his wife Katie Holmes) - and most recently Milan, whose citizens are arguably the most stylish in all Europe.

When you regard yourself as one of Europe's beautiful people, then leaving Manchester with a First Class round-the-world air ticket tucked away in her Gucci handbag will not have caused her any sleepless nights, but what of David? Financially, although the lad was already set up for life, his recent travels have been a nice little boost to his personal pension fund. Professionally, however, he must harbour serious misgivings about turning his back on United, the club that he routinely travelled from Essex to support as a boy.

During his 10-year working relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson, Beckham was a member of a United side that won six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the Champions' League in 1999 while becoming a permanent fixture on the right-hand side of the England midfield. As a player, he was no George Best, Bobby Charlton or Denis Law but he was the undisputed King of the Stretford End. As Sir Alex increasingly came to see Beckham, whom he had regarded as an adopted son, as a celebrity first and a footballer second - Fergie was outraged when Beckham skipped a training session in order to baby-sit his son Brooklyn (godfather Elton John, godmother Elizabeth Hurley) on the same day that Mrs Beckham was photographed at London Fashion Week - he sadly issued an ultimatum: shape up or ship out.

And so to Madrid they set sail; having become accustomed to being the star turn at Old Trafford, at the Bernabeu Beckham was just another gallactico in the company of Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane and the club captain Raul although he won the hearts of the Madrillenos by scoring within three minutes of his Primera Liga debut. But Real, for all their massive expenditure, were a team in the doldrums and although Beckham contributed the occasional wonder goal via one of his trademark free-kicks, in January 2007 he announced that he had signed a five-year deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy in the Walt Disney league that is American soccer, although he remained in Madrid long enough to help Real win their first league title in four years.

"I'm going there not to be a superstar," he explained. "With me, it's about football. I'm going there to make a difference." Guess what? He did not. True, the Beckhams were invited to every A-list party in Beverly Hills but to the average American soccer will forever rate below tractor-pulling as a sporting spectacle. At the age of 34 and with the prospect of one final World Cup tournament in the offing next summer, Beckham has since negotiated a unique time-share deal that allowed him to play for AC Milan - where he has been an undoubted success - during the Italian league season before returning to the LA Galaxy.

All in all, he probably wishes he had stayed put at United. rphilip@thenational.ae