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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 June 2007, 09:51 GMT 10:51 UK
LA deal revived Beckham - Antic
By John Sinnott

David Beckham
Beckham joined Real in the summer of 2003
Former Real Madrid coach Radomir Antic says the key to David Beckham's revival for both club and country has been his decision to sign for LA Galaxy.

Beckham agreed to join the MLS club in January and will move at the end of the Spanish League season in a fortnight.

Antic told BBC Sport: "When Beckham signed for LA Galaxy he forgot all the pressures that were weighing him down.

"He's been a different man on the field since he made that decision - you can see how much he's enjoying himself."

Over the last six months the 32-year-old Beckham has dramatically revived a career that looked to be heading for an ignominious end with Real, who he joined in the summer of 2003.

When the former England captain signed for LA Galaxy rather than extend his Real contract, the Spanish club's coach Fabio Capello announced Beckham would never play for the club again.

Real badly need someone to replace Beckham

Former Real Madrid coach Radomir Antic

But injuries forced Capello to rethink his decision and subsequently Beckham has helped Real mount a serious challenge for the Spanish title.

And in the last two months Beckham has been key to Real's title push.

Up until Saturday's 2-2 draw with Zaragoza, Real had won all five games after Beckham returned to the side following injury in April, including key wins over title rivals Valencia and Sevilla.

606: DEBATE

Victory in their final match at home to Mallorca next Sunday will see Real clinch their first title in four years.

Beckham's Lazarus-like revival with Real then persuaded England coach Steve McClaren to recall the midfielder, having snubbed him after the 2006 World Cup.

Having played against Brazil last week, Beckham played a key role in England's 3-0 away win over Estonia, setting up two of the goals.

"Watching Beckham play for England you could see how happy he is at the moment," added Antic, who as well as coaching Real and Barcelona, steered Atletico Madrid to a league and cup double in 1996.

"He worked very hard for the team, constantly changed his position and delivered a lot of very dangerous crosses.

"He has been inspired by the prospect of this new job in the United States."

And if Real do win the Spanish league - a feat they last achieved in 2003 - it will be primarily due to Beckham's influence, according to Antic.

David Beckham
Beckham has been key to Real's title push

"Former Real coach Wanderley Luxemburgo played Beckham in a number of different positions, sometimes in the middle and sometime wide and that didn't help," said Antic.

"Since Beckham regained his place in the Real team he has been crucial to their recent success.

"He's been very influential - always driving Real forward. I like the way Beckham challenges the game all the time. He always shows plenty of fight.

"As always he has contributed a lot from set-pieces and providing crosses for players to score goals."

Argentine Gonzalo Higuain has been tipped to take over from Beckham when the England midfielder finally moves to America, but Antic is unconvinced the 19-year-old is an ideal replacement.

"Real badly need someone to replace Beckham," said Antic, who has also coached Spanish sides Celta Vigo and Real Oviedo.

"Higuain can play in that position but he's not a player who can change a game with a long pass or a free-kick.

"But it's not only about replacing Beckham the player. Real also need somebody to embody the promotion of their hopes."



SEE ALSO
Beckham agrees to LA Galaxy move
12 Jan 07 |  Football
Real coach calls time on Beckham
13 Jan 07 |  Football
Beckham commits to England cause
07 Jun 07 |  Internationals
England return delights Beckham
02 Jun 07 |  Internationals
Estonia 0-3 England
06 Jun 07 |  Internationals
Long-haul Beckham
07 Jun 07 |  Football


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