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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 January 2007, 15:37 GMT
Beckham's rollercoaster ride

David Beckham in action for Real Madrid
Beckham has struggled to make his mark at Real this season
How will you remember David Beckham in your dotage?

Those free-kicks or that free-flowing sarong? That delightful right boot or those dodgy barnets? Former England captain or Mr Posh Spice?

Footballer or fashionista, the 31-year-old splits opinion, and always has.

For the time being football is still of paramount importance to the 31-year-old, but a more pertinent question is whether you would want him at your club.

As many as 15 clubs were reported to have shown an interest in the midfielder, including Arsenal and Chelsea in the Premiership, Milanese rivals AC and Inter in Serie A - but it is to America that the Beckhams are heading.

Planet Beckham will move to the LA Galaxy in the summer after signing a 128m five-year deal with the Major League Soccer club.

The move to California - with all the abundant attractions of Hollywood and the glamorous lifestyle - will form the latest chapter in a rollercoaster career of dizzying highs and desperate lows.

I used to wear my United shirt over my school uniform on my way to school so I got a lot of stick, but I used to give a lot back

David Beckham

Beckham, having turned down the advances of Tottenham as a youngster, left east London for Manchester United where he signed professional forms at Old Trafford in 1992.

He graduated from a legendary youth team along with the Neville brothers Gary and Phil, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt and Sir Alex Ferguson had the confidence to throw them into the first team.

They did not disappoint, despite the infamous caution of BBC pundit Alan Hansen who said "you don't win anything with kids".

United did. They won a double in 1996 and at the start of the subsequent season Beckham ingrained himself on the public imagination when he scored from the halfway line against Wimbledon.

Plaudits, domestic honours and international caps followed over the course of the next two years before his first setback.

He was made the scapegoat for England's defeat against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup after being dismissed for a petulant kick at Diego Simeone.

But Beckham, who was also taunted at away grounds for his relationship with Victoria Adams - aka Posh Spice - focused on the job in hand, kept his head down and battled back to help United to the treble in 1999.

Victoria and David Beckham
Beckham's off-pitch activities infuriated Ferguson

After a lavish wedding ceremony at the end of the season that cemented the legend of Posh and Becks as they sat on thrones at their reception at "Beckingham Palace", he continued his upward trajectory to superstardom.

After Euro 2000 he was appointed national captain and completed his redemption from figure of hate to national icon with a last-minute free-kick against Greece that sent England to the 2002 World Cup finals.

But having hit the heights, the rollercoaster ride soon slowed and would ultimately be derailed.

A metatarsal injury curtailed his impact at the World Cup and cracks began to open up in his relationship with Ferguson who was not amused by the manner in which one of his star players courted the limelight.

By February 2003 they became deep fissures when Beckham left Old Trafford after an FA Cup defeat by Arsenal with an X-marks-the-spot plaster on his eyebrow.

Ferguson had kicked a boot across the dressing room that caught Beckham and was soon to kick the player out of the club after United finished the season by claiming the Premiership title.

Beckham insisted Real were the only other club he would ever play for and in a 25m deal he had his wish. He was a galactico.

That status also allowed him to milk the cash cow of his global brand to the extent that he is estimated to be three times wealthier than the next British footballer, but on the pitch that league success in 2003 remains the last major honour he lifted.

BECKHAM'S HONOURS
Man United (1995-2003)
Premiership: 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003
FA Cup: 1994, 1996, 1999
European Cup: 1999
World Club Ch'ship: 1999
Real Madrid (2003-2007)
Spanish Super Cup: 2003
England (1996-2006)
94 caps (58 as captain)
17 goals & two red cards
Personal fortune estimated to be in the region of 90m
UK Glamour magazine's 'Best Dressed Man' winner (2007)

Real's policy of signing galacticos has been discredited, and following the arrival of the authoritarian Fabio Capello in the summer of 2006, Beckham has been marginalised at the Bernabeu.

If 1999 was Beckham's annus mirabilis, the last 12 months were his annus horribilis.

Having led England to the World Cup finals in Germany, Beckham's team of so-called superstars failed miserably going out at the quarter-finals for the third major tournament running under his captaincy.

And that ended prematurely when he left the field in tears against Portugal with an Achilles injury before standing down from the post.

He has not pulled on an England shirt since and the white of Real has adorned his shoulders less and less.

His lack of time on the pitch in Spain this season is doubtless a factor in his decision to leave, for whatever you think about Beckham there is no doubt that he loves playing football.

But his move to the footballing backwater of the US leaves one asking what the future holds for Beckham.

Perhaps his move to LA is the start of the next phase for brand Beckham - and a career in the movies?



SEE ALSO
Beckham agrees to LA Galaxy move
11 Jan 07 |  Football
Beckham tops football's rich list
06 Dec 06 |  Football
LA Galaxy admit Beckham interest
06 Nov 06 |  Football
Beckham England timeline
11 Aug 06 |  Football
Football icon captured snoozing
08 Dec 06 |  Merseyside
MLS paves way for big-name buys
11 Nov 06 |  Football
Beckham wants to end career in US
11 Apr 06 |  Football
Wenger plays down Beckham links
12 Mar 06 |  Arsenal
Beckham rules out domestic return
18 Sep 06 |  Football
McClaren ends Beckham England era
11 Aug 06 |  Internationals
Beckham quits as England captain
02 Jul 06 |  England
Beckham puts off retirement talk
09 Feb 06 |  Internationals


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