Beckham's journey goes on
He is a pioneer. A man who made the leap from footballer to mega-rich global celebrity in the space of a few years.
The London School of Marketing valued the Beckham family ‘brand’ at £470m in 2015. Not bad for a lad who used to earn £10 a shift collecting glasses at Walthamstow dog track.
Beckham had determined his career path from an early age. He wanted to be a professional footballer. He had trials with Leyton Orient and Tottenham, but his father Ted had already determined where his son would play.
“His dad was a United fan, David was a United fan. He had United in his blood,” Paddy Crerand, who played for United over 300 times, said in 2015.
Crerand took great joy in watching Beckham go from youth-team star as part of the famous Class of ’92 to international star – via a loan spell with Preston North End in 1995.
Some United fans – and Sir Alex Ferguson, of course – objected to Beckham’s fame, claiming it distracted him from his game.
But there is no doubt in Crerand’s mind that Beckham ranks among the other great No.7s at the club like George Best, Eric Cantona, Bryan Robson and Cristiano Ronaldo.
“He definitely is a Manchester United great,” Crerand said.
“He did some fantastic things for Manchester United.
“He dreamed of playing for Manchester United, but your dreams are only fulfilled when you have the ability though and he had the ability.
“He had a brilliant right foot but it wasn’t just that – he had brains to go with it.
“It wasn’t just the passing, it was the thought behind the pass. That’s why his career lasted so long. David was one of those types of players. He didn’t need to run. The ball did the running for him.”
Beckham scored 85 goals, won six Premier League titles and was part of the famous United team that earned a dramatic Champions League final victory in 1999, when two late goals saw off Bayern Munich at the Nou Camp.
“Everyone remembers the goals in injury time, but David was the one who took the corner kicks,” Crerand recalls.
Ferguson warmly embraced Beckham after the final whistle, but four years later – after the Scot kicked a boot at the player’s head, accidentally he insists – they parted ways.
The “starry-eyed” teenager who joined United in 1991 had turned into someone who had “made it his mission to be known outside the game,” the Scot determined.
Beckham held no grudges against Ferguson though.
“I have to thank him. He has always been a father figure to me and I’ll never forget that,” he said after signing for Real Madrid for £25m.
Beckham would add the Spanish title to his trophy collection before he departed for the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007 and won the MLS Cup twice.
He was unable to add international silverware to his CV though, as he and England’s so-called ‘golden generation’ repeatedly came up short.
Galaxy fans forgave him for leaving them for prolonged loan spells at AC Milan and as soon as he won Ligue 1 with PSG at the age of 38, bringing an end to his playing career, he returned to America to get the ball rolling on his next career move – launching a Major League Soccer franchise in Miami.
In truth, the ball had been rolling for six years. As soon as Beckham signed for the Galaxy, he had the first stage of his ‘retirement’ sorted.
Beckham and his advisers made sure a clause was inserted into his contract that would allow him to create his own MLS franchise.
Since kicking his last ball in anger, Beckham has been working hard to put the finishing touches to the project.
MLS commissioner Don Garber said in December that it was “time to reach a conclusion” with Beckham and his ownership group.
“We are very focused on Miami being our 24th team. And we’ll continue to work with them to try to achieve that,” Garber said.
“I remain a big believer in the importance of Miami to extending MLS’s reach to south of the border and to connect with a very diverse and culturally important city in our country.”