x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Q&A with David Beckham: 'I want to play as long as I can'

The midfielder takes some time to talk to The National's correspondent Andy Mitten after Paris St Germain were eliminated in the Uefa Champions League to Barcelona at Camp Nou.

David Beckham and Paris St Germain are out of this season's Uefa Champions League.
David Beckham and Paris St Germain are out of this season's Uefa Champions League.

A long, dark tunnel, where the visiting team’s coach parks, stretches beneath Camp Nou.

On May 26, 1999, David Beckham walked along it as a Uefa Champions League winner with Manchester United.

Fourteen years later, on Wednesday, he returned.

His Paris St Germain teammates sat waiting on the bus for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, selected for a random drug test, and for Beckham, who stopped to talk.

Despite PSG’s elimination from the tournament by Barcelona, he was positive: “Being involved in these games is still why I’m playing. It’s an amazing experience.”

Q: Are you more determined to keep on playing like Ryan Giggs?

A: I don’t think I could be any more determined than I have been throughout my career, but I enjoy playing and pushing myself into challenges. I want to continue.

Does it get harder?

Of course it’s harder than when I was 21, but I’m still enjoying it like I was then. When you get to my age and you are out there, you are more aware of things than at 21. You learn to read the game differently, so it’s easier in that sense, but physically it’s more difficult.

What did two draws against Barcelona reveal about PSG in the future?

We did ourselves proud and that is something that we can take as encouragement into next year’s campaign. We felt really confident coming into the game tonight. It was always going to be difficult coming here and getting a result. It feels worse going out when you have not lost the two games.

Do you want to stay [at PSG], knowing that this team is on the cusp of something?

Of course. Every time I play, it increases my urge to continue. That’s not going to change. When I’ve finished playing, I’ll still be playing football with my kids and dreaming about playing in the Champions League.

Lionel Messi ...

One-of-a-kind. Only [Cristiano] Ronaldo can come anywhere close to Messi. They’re both so similar in terms of technique and talent; it’s incredible to have two players like that in the game at the moment. He’s a special person and a special player.

What does it say about English football when there are two German and two exceptional Spanish teams in the last four?

Over the last 10 years, it has been swings and roundabouts. I’ve been proud of what the English teams have done. Obviously, this year it hasn’t happened, but we’ve one of the best, if not the best, league in the world, with some of the world’s best teams. It [the cyclical nature] happens.

Do you want to be part of grass-roots football in England?

A lot of work’s being done at the grass-roots in England. Coaches who’ve had experience here [in Europe] are going into coaching and management. That will help. We need to continue to progress because we don’t want to become complacent.

Do you see yourself becoming involved in football at that level?

I think I’ll be involved in football my whole life. My career will continue as some kind of ambassador after I have finished playing. I want to help English football as much as possible.

If the [English] FA asked you, would you go and give the grass-roots the experience of how the Spanish play, the Italians, the Americans?

Obviously I’ve had experience of playing in different countries. That’s what I’ve always brought to any coaching that I’ve done with kids or my teams. I’ve been able to experience different cultures, different ways of playing and different forms of grass-roots football, so it’s something that I can do once I’ve finished playing.

So if the FA said: ‘Come to St George’s Park and give us the benefit of your experience …

Let’s wait and see. I want to play as long as I can.

Are you surprised that Gary Neville has taken such a role with England?

I always saw Gary as someone who would do that, his brother Phil, the same. When you have players with that much knowledge it’s great to have them involved. I’ve always said that the foreign players who have come into our league have helped our game. It has brought excitement. I’m sure that will continue. Players all over the world want to play in the Premier League. But it’s important that we continue to progress and bring young English players through as well.

Maybe it’s a shame that players haven’t done as you did and experienced playing in other countries.

Everyone is different. For someone like Ryan Giggs to stay at the top level at Manchester United for as long as he has is really incredible. It shows a huge amount of loyalty. Not every player can do that. In my case, I left and went on to play for another one of the biggest clubs in the world and then some other pretty big European clubs.

I wouldn’t have done it any other way because looking back on my career, I’m proud of the players who I played with and the teams I played with, and how I have learnt from the game in different countries.



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