Overview of life
David Robert Joseph Beckham, OBE (/ˈbɛkəm/; born 2 May 1975) is an English former professional footballer. He played for Manchester United, Preston North End, Real Madrid, Milan, LA Galaxy, Paris Saint-Germain, and the England national team for which he held the appearance record for an outfield player until 2016 when Wayne Rooney surpassed his total. He is the first English player to win league titles in four countries: England, Spain, the United States and France. He announced his retirement in May 2013 after a 20-year career, during which he won 19 major trophies.
Known for his range of passing, crossing ability and bending free-kicks as a right winger, Beckham was runner up in the Ballon d’Or, twice runner-up for FIFA World Player of the Year and in 2004 he was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players. He was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2008. A global ambassador for the sport, Beckham is regarded as a British cultural icon.
Beckham’s professional club career began with Manchester United, where he made his first-team debut in 1992 aged 17. With United, he won the Premier League title six times, the FA Cup twice, and the UEFA Champions League in 1999. He then played four seasons with Real Madrid, winning the La Liga championship in his final season with the club. In July 2007 Beckham signed a five-year contract with Major League Soccer club LA Galaxy. While a Galaxy player, he spent two loan spells in Italy with Milan in 2009 and 2010. He was the first British footballer to play 100 UEFA Champions League games.
In international football, Beckham made his England debut on 1 September 1996 at the age of 21. He was captain for six years, earning 58 caps during his tenure. He made 115 career appearances in total, appearing at three FIFA World Cup tournaments, in 1998, 2002 and 2006, and two UEFA European Championship tournaments, in 2000 and 2004.
Beckham has consistently ranked among the highest earners in football, and in 2013 he was listed as the highest-paid player in the world, earning over $50 million in the previous 12 months. He has been married to Victoria Beckham since 1999 and they have four children. He has been a UNICEF UK ambassador since 2005, and in 2015 he launched 7: The David Beckham UNICEF Fund. In 2014, MLS announced Beckham and a group of investors would own an expansion team in Miami, which would begin in 2016 or 2017.
Beckham was born at Whipps Cross University Hospital in Leytonstone, London, England. He is the son of Sandra Georgina (née West; b. 1949), a hairdresser, and David Edward Alan “Ted” Beckham (b. Edmonton, London, July–September 1948), a kitchen fitter, who married at the London Borough of Hackney in 1969. He has an older sister, Lynne Georgina, and a younger sister, Joanne Louise. He regularly played football in Ridgeway Park, Chingford, as a child, and attended Chase Lane Primary School and Chingford County High School. In a 2007 interview, Beckham said that, “At school whenever the teachers asked, ‘What do you want to do when you’re older?’ I’d say, ‘I want to be a footballer.’ And they’d say, ‘No, what do you really want to do, for a job?’ But that was the only thing I ever wanted to do.” Beckham’s maternal grandfather was Jewish, and Beckham has referred to himself as “half Jewish” and wrote in his autobiography “I’ve probably had more contact with Judaism than with any other religion”. In his book Both Feet on the Ground, he stated that growing up he attended church every week with his parents, because that was the only way he could play football for their team.
His parents were fanatical Manchester United supporters who would frequently travel to Old Trafford from London to attend the team’s home matches. David inherited his parents’ love of Manchester United, and his main sporting passion was football. He attended one of Bobby Charlton’s football schools in Manchester and won the chance to take part in a training session with Barcelona, as part of a talent competition. He played for a local youth team called Ridgeway Rovers – coached by his father, Stuart Underwood and Steve Kirby. Beckham was a Manchester United mascot for a match against West Ham United in 1986. Young Beckham had trials with his local club Leyton Orient, Norwich City and attended Tottenham Hotspur’s school of excellence. Tottenham Hotspur was the first club he played for. During a two-year period in which Beckham played for Brimsdown Rovers’ youth team, he was named Under-15 Player of the Year in 1990. He also attended Bradenton Preparatory Academy, but signed schoolboy forms at Manchester United on his 14th birthday, and subsequently signed a Youth Training Scheme contract on 8 July 1991.
Youth and early career
Having signed for Manchester United as a trainee on 8 July 1991, Beckham was part of a group of young players, including Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes, who were coached by Eric Harrison, and helped the club win the FA Youth Cup in May 1992. Beckham scored Manchester United’s second goal in the 30th minute of their 3–1 first-leg win of the final against Crystal Palace on 14 April 1992. In the second leg on 15 May, Beckham played a full 90-minutes of the fixture which ended 3–2 in favour of Manchester United and 6–3 on aggregate. Beckham’s impact led to a first-team debut on 23 September 1992, as a substitute for Andrei Kanchelskis in a League Cup match against Brighton & Hove Albion. Shortly afterwards, Beckham signed as a professional on 23 January 1993.
Manchester United would again reach the final of the FA Youth Cup, where they would face Leeds United. The first leg was played on 10 May 1993, where Beckham started in Manchester United’s 2–0 home loss but was replaced by substitute Robbie Savage. In the second leg on 13 May 1993, Beckham played the full 90 minutes of Manchester United’s 2–1 defeat, which gave Leeds United a 4–1 aggregate score. Beckham would also receive honours with the club’s reserve team, when the squad would win the league in 1994. In September 1994, Beckham went on to gain his first full appearance in the club’s first team against Port Vale in a League Cup fixture. On 7 December 1994, Beckham made his UEFA Champions League debut, scoring a goal in a 4–0 victory at home to Galatasaray in the final game of the group stage. Despite the victory, however, they finished third out of four in their group, behind Barcelona.
Preston North End (loan)
Beckham then went to Preston North End on loan for part of the 1994–95 season to get some first team experience. He impressed, scoring two goals in five appearances, notably scoring directly from a corner kick.
Return to Manchester United
Beckham returned to Manchester and finally made his Premier League debut for Manchester United on 2 April 1995, in a goal-less draw against Leeds United. He played four times for United in the league that season, as they finished second behind Blackburn Rovers and missed a third successive Premier League title by a single point. He was not in the squad for the FA Cup final with Everton on 20 May, which they lost 1–0 and were left without a major trophy for the first time since 1989.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson had a great deal of confidence in the club’s young players. Beckham was part of a group of young talents Ferguson brought into United in the 1990s (known as “Fergie’s Fledglings”), which included Nicky Butt and Gary and Phil Neville. When experienced players Paul Ince, Mark Hughes, and Andrei Kanchelskis left the club after the end of the 1994–95 season, his decision to let youth team players replace them instead of buying star players from other clubs (United had been linked with moves for players including Darren Anderton, Marc Overmars and Roberto Baggio, but no major signings were made that summer), drew a great deal of criticism. The criticism increased when United started the season with a 3–1 defeat at Aston Villa, with Beckham scoring United’s only goal of the game; however, United would recover from this early season defeat and the young players performed well.
Beckham swiftly established himself as United’s right-sided midfielder (rather than a right-winger in the style of his predecessor Andrei Kanchelskis) and helped them to win the Premier League title and FA Cup double that season, scoring the winner in the semi-final against Chelsea and also provided the corner that Eric Cantona scored from in the FA Cup Final. Beckham’s first title medal had, for a while, looked like it would not be coming that season, as United were still 10 points adrift of leaders Newcastle United at the turn of the new year, but Beckham and his teammates had overhauled the Tynesiders at the top of the league by mid March and they remained top until the end of the season. Despite playing regularly (and to a consistently high standard) for Manchester United, Beckham did not break into the England squad before Euro 1996.
“It changed my life. The ball seemed to be in the air for hours and it all went quiet. Then the ball went in and it just erupted. I was on cloud nine. I just wanted to shake everybody’s hand and be out on the pitch for an hour.”
—Beckham on the goal from the half-way line against Wimbledon in August 1996 that made him a household name.
At the beginning of the 1996–97 season, Beckham was given the number 10 shirt that had most recently been worn by Mark Hughes. On 17 August 1996 (the first day of the Premier League season), Beckham became something of a household name when he scored a spectacular goal in a match against Wimbledon. With United leading 2–0, Beckham noticed that Wimbledon’s goalkeeper Neil Sullivan was standing a long way out of his goal, and hit a shot from the halfway line that floated over the goalkeeper and into the net.
When Beckham scored his famous goal, he did so in Adidas Predator shoes custom-made for Charlie Miller (“Charlie” embroidered on boots), which had been given to Beckham by mistake. In a UK poll conducted by Channel 4 in 2002, the British public voted the goal No.18 in the list of the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments. During the 1996–97 season, Beckham became an automatic first-choice player at Manchester United helping them to retain the Premier League championship, and was voted PFA Young Player of the Year by his peers. Manchester United started the 1997–98 season well but erratic performances in the second half of the season saw United finish second behind Arsenal.
Beckham preparing to take a corner kick for Manchester United during the 1999 FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium
In the 1998–99 season, he was part of the United team that won the treble of the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League, a unique feat in English football. There had been speculation that the criticism that he had received after being sent off in the World Cup would lead to him leaving England, but Beckham decided to stay at Manchester United.
To ensure they would win the Premier League title, United needed to win their final league match of the season, at home to Tottenham (with reports suggesting that the opposition would allow themselves to be easily beaten to prevent their deadly local rivals Arsenal from retaining the title), but Tottenham took an early lead in the match. Beckham scored the equaliser with a curling strike from 25 yards out into the top left corner of the goal and United went on to win the match and the league.
Beckham played in central midfield in United’s win over Bayern Munich in the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final, since United’s first string centre-midfielders Paul Scholes and Roy Keane were suspended for the match. United were losing the match 1–0 at the end of normal time, but won the trophy by scoring two goals in injury time. Both of the goals came from corners taken by Beckham. Those crucial assists, coupled with great performances over the rest of the season, led to him finishing runner up to Rivaldo for 1999’s European Footballer of the Year and FIFA World Player of the Year awards.
Despite Beckham’s achievements in the 1998–99 season, he was still unpopular among some opposition fans and journalists, and he was criticised after being sent off for a deliberate foul in Manchester United’s World Club Championship match against Necaxa. It was suggested in the press that his wife was a bad influence on him, and that it might be in United’s interests to sell him, but his manager publicly backed him and he stayed at the club. During the 1999–2000 season, there was a talk of a transfer to Juventus in Italy, but this never happened. Beckham helped United retain the Premier League title in 1999–2000 by an 18-point margin – after being pushed by Arsenal and Leeds United for much of the season. United won their final 11 league games of the season, with Beckham scoring five goals during this run, with his last goal coming from a swerving shot from the edge of the penalty area in their final home game against Tottenham Hotspur.
By the early 2000s, the relationship between Ferguson and Beckham had begun to deteriorate, possibly as a result of Beckham’s fame and commitments away from football. In 2000, Beckham was given permission to miss training to look after his son Brooklyn, who had gastroenteritis, but Ferguson was furious when Victoria Beckham was photographed at a London Fashion Week event on the same night, claiming that Beckham would have been able to train if Victoria had looked after Brooklyn that day. He responded by fining Beckham the maximum amount that was permitted (two weeks’ wages – then £50,000) and dropping him for a crucial match against United’s rivals Leeds United. He later criticised Beckham for this in his autobiography, claiming he had not been “fair to his teammates” Beckham had a good season for his club, though, and helped United to win the Premier League by a record margin.
“He was never a problem until he got married. He used to go into work with the academy coaches at night time, he was a fantastic young lad. Getting married into that entertainment scene was a difficult thing – from that moment, his life was never going to be the same. He is such a big celebrity, football is only a small part.”‘ – Alex Ferguson speaking about Beckham’s marriage in 2007.
He was a key player in United’s third successive league title in 2000–01 – only the fourth time that any club had achieved three league titles in a row. He scored nine goals that season, all in the Premier League.
On 10 April 2002, Beckham was injured during a Champions League match against Deportivo de La Coruña, breaking the second metatarsal bone in his left foot. There was speculation in the British media that the injury might have been caused deliberately, as the player who had injured Beckham was Argentine Aldo Duscher, and England and Argentina were due to meet in that year’s World Cup. The injury prevented Beckham from playing for United for the rest of the season and they missed out on the Premier League title to Arsenal (also being knocked out of the Champions League by Bayer Leverkusen on away goals in the semi-finals), but he signed a three-year contract in May, following months of negotiations with the club, mostly concerning extra payments for his image rights. The income from his new contract, and his many endorsement deals, made him the highest-paid player in the world at the time. Despite the injury, 2001–02 was arguably Beckham’s best season as a United player; he scored 11 goals in 28 league games, and a total of 16 goals in 42 games in all competitions, the best of his career.
Following an injury early in the 2002–03 season, Beckham was unable to regain his place on the Manchester United team, with Ole Gunnar Solskjær having replaced him on the right side of midfield. His relationship with his manager deteriorated further on 15 February 2003 when, in the changing room following an FA Cup defeat to Arsenal, a furious Alex Ferguson threw or kicked a boot that struck Beckham over the eye, causing a cut that required stitches. The incident led to a great deal of transfer speculation involving Beckham, with bookmakers offering odds on whether he or Ferguson would be first to leave the club. Although the team had started the season badly, their results improved greatly from December onwards and they won the league, with Beckham managing a total of 11 goals in 52 games in all competitions. He was still a first-choice player for England, however, and was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to football on 13 June 2003.
Beckham had made 265 Premier league appearances for United and scored 61 goals. He also made 81 Champions league appearances, scoring 15 goals. Beckham won six Premier League titles, two FA Cups, one European Cup, one Intercontinental Cup and one FA Youth Cup in the space of 12 years. By this stage, he was their joint second longest serving player behind Ryan Giggs (having joined them at the same time as Nicky Butt, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes).
“He is a great player who is going to become part of the club’s great history. He is a man of our times and a symbol of modern-day stardom and what is certain is Real have signed Beckham because he’s a great footballer and a very dedicated professional. His team spirit is unsurpassed and he is one of the best English players of all-time and if only because of that he is with us.”
—Real Madrid President Florentino Pérez during Beckham’s unveiling.
As the summer 2003 transfer window approached, Manchester United appeared keen to sell Beckham to Barcelona and the two clubs even announced that they reached a deal for Beckham’s transfer, but instead he joined reigning Spanish champions Real Madrid for €35 million on a four-year contract. Beckham was the latest signing in the Galácticos era of global stars signed by club president Florentino Pérez every summer. The news came as a bitter blow to the newly elected Barcelona president Joan Laporta, who based much of his presidential campaign on signing Beckham. Though announced in mid-June, the transfer was completed on 1 July 2003, making him the third Englishman to play for the club after Laurie Cunningham and Steve McManaman. Following a successful medical on 2 July, Beckham was unveiled in front of 500 accredited journalists from 25 countries at Real’s basketball facility, where he was handed the famous white shirt by club legend Alfredo Di Stéfano. Although Beckham had worn the number seven shirt for Manchester United and England, he was unable to wear it at Madrid as it was currently assigned to club captain Raúl. He decided to wear number 23 instead, citing his admiration of basketball player Michael Jordan, who also wore the number 23 shirt, as the reason behind his decision.
Beckham (top) and Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid in August 2003
In the week before Beckham’s presentation, Real named Carlos Queiroz as their new head coach, meaning that Beckham got reunited with a familiar face upon arriving to Madrid since Queiroz spent the previous season as Alex Ferguson’s assistant at Manchester United. In late July 2003, the club went on a tour of the Far East as part of the pre-season training, but also to cash in on Beckham’s huge marketing appeal in Asia where he enjoyed tremendous following. Real’s brand recognition in that part of the globe was already well established as the club made financially successful trips to Asia during previous off-seasons; however, the presence of global marketing icon such as Beckham made this particular tour a financial smash for los Merengues.
Shortly after his Real switch, Beckham also ended his relationship with agent Tony Stephens of SFX Europe who had guided him through his career up until this point, including helping to engineer Beckham’s move from Manchester to Madrid. Beckham signed on with Simon Fuller and his company 19 Entertainment that already managed the career of Victoria. Beckham also appointed close friend Terry Byrne to be his personal manager.
In late August 2003, Real Madrid won the Spanish Super Cup over two legs versus RCD Mallorca, with Beckham scoring the final goal in a 3–0 return leg win at home, thus setting the stage for the start of the league season. Playing on a star-laden team which included three former FIFA World Player of the Year recipients, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and Luís Figo, in addition to Roberto Carlos, Raúl and Iker Casillas, Beckham did not require much time to settle in, scoring five times in his first 16 matches (including a goal less than three minutes into his La Liga debut). Queiroz mostly favoured the adaptable 5–3–2 formation with two fullbacks Míchel Salgado and Roberto Carlos often joining the attack down the wings, while Beckham played on the right of the three-man midfield alongside Zidane and Figo.
Real Madrid were runners-up in the Copa del Rey, were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League at the quarter-final stage and finished the league season in fourth place, meaning the team, whose president Pérez expected them to win either the Spanish league or the Champions League each season, did not match expectations. In July 2004, while Beckham was in pre-season training in Spain, an intruder scaled a wall at the Beckham home while carrying a can of petrol. Victoria and their children were in the house at the time, but security guards apprehended the man before he reached the house.
The league season began with new head coach José Antonio Camacho behind the bench, but he ended up lasting only three matches, handing in his resignation as Real dropped to eighth spot in the La Liga standings. Camacho’s assistant Mariano García Remón took over on temporary basis as Real leadership scrambled to find a permanent replacement. Beckham made more headlines on 9 October 2004 when he admitted intentionally fouling Ben Thatcher in an England match against Wales to get himself booked. Beckham was due to receive a one-match suspension for his next caution, and had picked up an injury, which he knew would keep him out of England’s next match, so he deliberately fouled Thatcher to serve his suspension in a match that he would have had to miss anyway. The Football Association asked Beckham for an explanation of his actions and he admitted that he had “made a mistake” and apologised. He was sent off shortly afterwards, this time in a league match for Real Madrid against Valencia. Having received a yellow card, he was judged to have sarcastically applauded the referee and was given a second yellow card, causing an automatic dismissal, although the suspension was cancelled on appeal.
By Christmas 2004, with the team sitting in second league spot, García Remón was gone as Vanderlei Luxemburgo became the new head coach. However, the well-traveled Brazilian failed to inspire the team to the title as Real again finished the season in the runner-up spot. On 3 December 2005, Beckham was sent off for the third time that season in a league match against Getafe CF. One day later Luxemburgo got the axe and was replaced with Juan Ramón López Caro. By the end of that season, Beckham led La Liga in number of assists.
Warming up with Real Madrid in August 2006
During the season, Beckham established football academies in Los Angeles and east London and he was named a judge for the 2006 British Book Awards. Real Madrid finished second to Barcelona in the 2005–06 La Liga, albeit with a large 12-point gap, and reached the last 16 only in the Champions League after losing to Arsenal. The season also marked the end of an era for the club as Pérez resigned his president post in January 2006 with Vicente Boluda named as replacement on interim basis until the end of the season.
The summer 2006 off-season marked a turbulent time as club president elections were held. Ramón Calderón became the new Real president. As expected, none of the club officials that served under the previous president were kept, including head coach López Caro. Initially out of favour with newly arrived head coach Fabio Capello, Beckham started only a few games at the beginning of the season, as the speedier José Antonio Reyes was normally preferred on the right wing. In the first nine matches Beckham started, Real lost seven. On 10 January 2007, after prolonged contract negotiations, Real Madrid’s sporting director Predrag Mijatović announced that Beckham would not remain at Real Madrid after the end of the season. However, he later claimed that he was mistranslated and that he actually said that Beckham’s contract had not yet been renewed.
On 11 January 2007, Beckham announced that he had signed a five-year deal to play for the LA Galaxy beginning 1 July 2007. On 13 January 2007, Fabio Capello said that Beckham had played his last game for Real Madrid, although he would continue to train with the team. A few days later while speaking to the students at Villanueva University Center in Madrid, Calderón said that Beckham is “going to Hollywood to be half a film star”, adding “our technical staff were right not to extend his contract, which has been proved by the fact that no other technical staff in the world wanted him except Los Angeles”.
About a month later, however, Capello backtracked on his earlier statement, allowing Beckham to rejoin the team for the match against Real Sociedad on 10 February 2007. The player immediately repaid his head coach’s trust by scoring the equalising goal from a 27-yard free kick as Real Madrid eventually recorded a 2–1 victory. In his final UEFA Champions League appearance for the club, Real Madrid were knocked out of the competition by Bayern Munich at the round-of-16 stage (on the away goals rule) on 7 March 2007. Beckham played a pivotal role in all three Madrid goals in the home game, with Bayern goalkeeper Oliver Kahn describing his performance as “world class”.
Beckham’s last season with Real Madrid
On 17 June 2007, the last day of the La Liga season, Beckham started in his final match for the club, a 3–1 win over Mallorca, which saw them clinch the title from Barcelona. With Real down 0–1 Beckham limped off the field and was replaced by José Antonio Reyes, who scored two goals leading the team to that season’s La Liga title, their first since Beckham had signed with them and 30th overall in the club’s history. Although Real and Barça both finished level on points, Madrid took the title because of superior head-to-head record, capping a remarkable six-month turnaround for Beckham. With his wife and children along with celebrity friends Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes watching from a luxury box at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium; it was only Beckham’s second piece of silverware since he joined the famous club.
Towards the end of the season, as Beckham was getting back into Capello’s good books after successfully fighting his way back into the first team, Real Madrid announced they would try to untie his transfer to LA Galaxy, but were ultimately unsuccessful. Several weeks before Beckham’s scheduled arrival to the United States, Real’s management contacted LA Galaxy’s ownership group about reacquiring the player, but were quickly turned down.
A month after the conclusion of Beckham’s Real career, Forbes magazine reported that he had been the party primarily responsible for the team’s huge increase in merchandise sales, a total reported to top US$600 million during Beckham’s four years at the club.
I’m coming there not to be a superstar. I’m coming there to be part of the team, to work hard and to hopefully win things. With me, it’s about football. I’m coming there to make a difference. I’m coming there to play football … I’m not saying me coming over to the States is going to make soccer the biggest sport in America. That would be difficult to achieve. Baseball, basketball, American football, they’ve been around. But I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think I could make a difference.
Beckham on going to America
Beckham’s involvement with Major League Soccer (MLS) began while he was still a Real Madrid player when it was confirmed on 11 January 2007 that he would be leaving Madrid in six months to join MLS side LA Galaxy. The speculation about his new contract in Madrid was thus put to an end and the following day Beckham’s official press conference was held in conjunction with the 2007 MLS SuperDraft.
Beckham scores his first goal for LA Galaxy with a trademark free-kick.
The announcement made top news all across the globe. Though many worldwide media outlets reported the deal to be worth US$250 million, the astronomical figure was soon revealed to be something of a PR stunt engineered by Beckham’s media handlers (British representative agency 19 Entertainment). To maximise the media effect, in the press release they decided to list the potential sum that Beckham could make over the five-year period from all his revenue sources, which in addition to his Galaxy pay also include his personal endorsements. Beckham’s actual deal with the Galaxy was a five-year contract worth US$32.5 million in total or $6.5 million per year.
The high-profile acquisition paid immediate financial dividends for Galaxy long before Beckham joined the team. On the strength of the signing and the media frenzy it created, the club was able to pull off a new five-year shirt sponsorship deal with Herbalife nutrition company worth US$20 million. The gate revenue peaked as well with 11,000 new season tickets holders and sold-out luxury suites (each one of the 42 inside the team’s home ground, the Home Depot Center). Even the LA Galaxy owners Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) saw an immediate spike in business. Involved on many business fronts worldwide, AEG was already leveraging its Beckham association in places such as China, where the company had been working aggressively in Shanghai and Beijing for years to receive clearance to build arenas and stadiums. The company’s CEO Tim Leiweke put it as follows: “Suddenly, we’re known as the company that owns the team that David Beckham is going to play for, so our world changed”.
In the months following the announcement, the additional terms of Beckham’s contract became public knowledge. One unique contract provision was giving him the option of buying an MLS expansion franchise in any market except New York City at the fixed price of $25 million whenever he stopped playing in the league – an allowance that the league’s owners had never given to a player before. Another provision was the opt-out clause after the 2009 season, meaning that should he decide so, Beckham was free to leave the club after completing year three of his five-year contract. In April 2007, he and wife Victoria bought an $18.2 million home on San Ysidro Drive in Beverly Hills.
Beckham’s contract with LA Galaxy took effect on 11 July, and on 13 July, the famous Englishman was officially unveiled as a Galaxy player at the Home Depot Center to much fanfare and world media interest in front of more than 5,000 gathered fans and some 700 accredited media members. Beckham chose to wear number 23. It was announced that Galaxy jersey sales had already reached a record figure of over 250,000 prior to this formal introduction.
In parallel, Beckham’s handlers at 19 Entertainment succeeded in putting together an unprecedented US media rollout designed to expand his carefully crafted personal brand in America. He made the cover of Sports Illustrated, a few weeks earlier Adidas launched the extensive 13-part ad campaign “Fútbol meets Football” starring Beckham and NFL running back Reggie Bush, and W magazine published a racy photo spread featuring David and wife Victoria photographed by Steven Klein. Meanwhile, ESPN sports network was running a promotional campaign and it also agreed to air David Beckham: New Beginnings documentary produced by 19 Entertainment before the friendly match versus Chelsea, which was expected to be Beckham’s American debut. In addition to popularising soccer, Beckham’s arrival was used as platform for entertainment industry endeavours. Since both Beckham’s and his wife’s often overlapping careers were handled by 19 Entertainment, which is owned by Simon Fuller, who in turn has a business relationship with the Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of Hollywood’s most powerful talent agencies, it was important also for CAA that the Beckhams made as big an impact as possible upon their arrival in the United States. On 16 July, CAA had hosted a welcoming bash for David at its new eight-storey, $400 million headquarters in Century City with CAA employees reportedly instructed beforehand to line the staircase and clap for Beckham upon his arrival. That night Victoria’s reality show prime-time special Victoria Beckham: Coming to America aired on NBC, drawing negative reviews in the press and poor viewership ratings.
Beckham became the LA Galaxy captain immediately upon joining the team
On Saturday afternoon, 21 July, despite still nursing the injured left ankle that he picked up a month earlier during the final match of La Liga’s season, Beckham made his Galaxy debut, coming on for Alan Gordon in the 78th minute of a 0–1 friendly loss to Chelsea as part of the World Series of Soccer. With a capacity crowd, along with a long Hollywood celebrity list featuring Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Eva Longoria, Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Drew Carey among others, present at the Home Depot Center, the match was broadcast live on ESPN’s main network. However, the proceedings on the field of play took a back seat to the Beckham spectacle, and despite the presence of worldwide football stars such as Andriy Shevchenko, Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack, and Frank Lampard, the US television cameras were firmly focused on Beckham who spent most of the match on the bench. The match’s added time featured a scare for already injured Beckham when he got tackled by Steve Sidwell whose cleats struck Beckham’s right foot, sending him airborne before he crumpled hard to the ground. Though the existing injury was not aggravated too much, Beckham’s recovery process was set back by about a week. ESPN’s presentation of Beckham’s debut earned a 1.0 TV rating, meaning it was seen in an average of 947,000 television homes in the US – a disappointing figure given the national media buzz and two weeks of constant promotion by ESPN. As far as sporting events that were televised that weekend in the United States, Beckham’s much publicised debut drew fewer TV viewers than British Open golf tournament, a regular-season national baseball game, and even the Indy Racing League’s Honda 200 motor race.
The day after the made-for-TV debut was reserved for the welcoming party for the Beckhams at LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art, formally billed as being hosted by Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Will Smith, and Jada Pinkett Smith though in actuality a CAA-organized event. Attended by many Hollywood A-listers, the lavish bash was big news in the US celebrity tabloid media, including daily entertainment TV magazines such as Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood.
Beckham missed the next four LA Galaxy matches – three in the North American SuperLiga and an MLS game away at Toronto FC though he still made the trip with his teammates, sitting on the bench in street clothes. It was in Toronto on 5 August that the team got its first taste of what life would be like on the road with Beckham on the roster. Due to security concerns, it was the first time the team flew on a charter for a road match, rather than flying commercial (MLS normally forbids charter flights for away matches, claiming they provide competitive advantage, but in this case they made an exception due to the frenzy created around Beckham and resulting security issues). Also, instead of the usual MLS-mandated modest hotels, LA Galaxy stayed at the five-star Le Méridien King Edward in downtown Toronto (an expense paid for by the local Toronto promoter), while the glitz and glamour continued with the velvet rope, red carpet party at the Ultra Supper Club with Beckham as the centerpiece guest.
Beckham playing for LA Galaxy in March 2008
Two weeks after his 12-minute appearance against Chelsea, Beckham finally made his league debut as a substitute on 9 August away versus D.C. United in front of the sellout crowd of 46,686 (nearly three times the average D.C. United home crowd) at the RFK Stadium, coming on for Quavas Kirk in the 71st minute. Coming into the nationally televised match on ESPN, played under a heavy downpour with his team down a man and down a goal, Beckham left a mark during the remaining 20-plus minutes. He hit a long free kick that Carlos Pavón failed to finish on for the equaliser, and then in the final minutes Beckham served a weighted through ball into Landon Donovan’s path that United’s keeper Troy Perkins managed to break up in the last moment – the Galaxy lost 1–0. The next match on the road trip was at New England Revolution and Beckham decided to sit it out, fearing further aggravating his ankle injury on the Gillette Stadium’s artificial surface.
Beckham returned to the pitch the following week, again facing D.C. United, in the SuperLiga semi-final on 15 August. During this game he had many firsts with the Galaxy; his first start, first yellow card and first game as team captain. He also scored his first goal for the team, from a free kick, and also made his first assist, for Landon Donovan in the second half. These goals gave the team a 2–0 victory, and a place in the North American SuperLiga final versus Pachuca on 29 August.
During the SuperLiga final against Pachuca, Beckham injured his right knee, with an MRI scan revealing that he had sprained his medial collateral ligament and would be out for six weeks. He returned to play in the final home match of the season. The Galaxy were eliminated from playoff contention on 21 October, in the final MLS match of the season, a 1–0 loss to the Chicago Fire. Beckham played as a substitute in the match, bringing his season totals to eight matches played (5 league); one goal scored (0 league); and three assists (2 league).
Beckham trained with Arsenal from 4 January 2008 for three weeks until he returned to the Galaxy for pre-season training. Beckham scored his first league goal with the Galaxy on 3 April against the San Jose Earthquakes in the ninth minute. On 24 May 2008, the Galaxy defeated the Kansas City Wizards 3–1, giving the Galaxy their first winning record in two years and moving the club into first place in the Western Conference. In the match, Beckham scored an empty-net goal from 70 yards out. The goal marked the second time in Beckham’s career that he had scored from his own half, the other being a 1996-goal from the half-way line against Wimbledon at Selhurst Park. Overall, however, the Galaxy had a disappointing year, failing to qualify for the end-of-season play-offs.
Beckham playing for Milan
In 2008, Beckham’s success in the England national team under Fabio Capello led to speculation that he might return to Europe to retain match fitness for the World Cup qualifying matches in 2009. On 30 October 2008, Milan announced that Beckham was to join them on loan from 7 January 2009. Despite this and other speculation, Beckham made it clear that the move in no way signalled his intent to leave MLS and announced his intent to return to the Galaxy in time for the start of the 2009 season in March. Many at Milan both within and outside of the club expressed serious reservations about the transfer, with it considered by some players no more than a marketing move.
Beckham was unveiled at Milan’s training facility by the club’s chief executive Adriano Galliani on 20 December 2008. The player chose the number 32 shirt previously worn by Christian Vieri, as both the number 7 and 23 shirts were already used by Alexandre Pato and club vice captain Massimo Ambrosini, respectively. After his physical, Beckham was reportedly told by a club doctor that he believed he could continue playing football for another five years, up to the age of 38. The day after his unveiling, Beckham was brought to San Siro where he got introduced to home fans by walking out on the pitch before the league match versus Udinese and proclaiming “Forza Milan” over the public address system. Afterwards, he and wife Victoria watched from a luxury box as Milan won 5–1.
“On the pitch, Beckham sees everything before everyone else. His vision of play is better now than during his time in Manchester. He is slower but much stronger tactically and technically. He is very intelligent and works a lot.”
—A.C. Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti on Beckham’s condition at 33 years old.
Playing on the squad led by the 26-year-old superstar Kaká in addition to several other world-class players at or near the peak of their careers – 28-year-old Ronaldinho, and 29-year-old Andrea Pirlo – as well as club veterans Paolo Maldini, Clarence Seedorf, Massimo Ambrosini, Giuseppe Favalli, Gianluca Zambrotta, Filippo Inzaghi and Andriy Shevchenko, Beckham made his competitive debut for the rossoneri in Serie A as a starter away at Roma on 11 January 2009, playing 89 minutes of the 2–2 draw in front of 53,444 at the Stadio Olimpico. Playing his first competitive match in almost three months, Beckham gave a decent performance in right midfield alongside Pirlo. Though clearly lacking match fitness, occasionally struggling to keep up in a high-tempo match, Beckham put in enough useful crosses and corners to justify the coach Carlo Ancelotti’s decision to play him from the start. Going into Beckham’s home debut versus Fiorentina a week later, all the talk was around Kaká being the target of a reported £100 million transfer bid by Manchester City. Beckham turned in another understated performance on the right side of midfield before advancing into a more active central role in the second half thus effectively taking over Seedorf’s role after the Dutchman was subbed off. Milan won 1–0 courtesy of Pato, but the 65,000+ San Siro crowd mostly focused on Kaká, imploring him to stay.
A noticeably older team, Ancelotti-coached Milan was proving a good fit for the 33-year-old Englishman. He scored his first goal in Serie A for Milan in a 4–1 victory over Bologna on 25 January, his third appearance for the club. Though Beckham was expected to return to Los Angeles in March, after impressing at the Italian club, scoring two goals in his first four matches and assisting on several more, rumours began to swirl that Beckham would stay in Milan, with the Italian club reportedly offering to pay a multimillion-dollar fee for him. The rumours were confirmed on 4 February, when Beckham stated that he was seeking a permanent transfer to Milan in a bid to sustain his England career through the 2010 World Cup. Milan, however, failed to match Galaxy’s valuation of Beckham, in the US$10–15 million range.
Still, negotiations continued during a month of speculation. On 2 March, the Los Angeles Times reported that Beckham’s loan had been extended through mid-July. This was later confirmed by Beckham, revealing what was described as a unique “timeshare” deal, in which Beckham would play with L.A. from mid-July till the end of the 2009 MLS season.
Return to Galaxy
After his return from Milan, many LA fans showed dislike and anger towards him as he missed the first half of the season and several held up signs saying “Go home fraud”, and “Part-time player”. The Galaxy, however, had a much more successful season than in previous years, rising from third to first in the Western Conference during Beckham’s time with them. He remained a key part of the squad which saw Galaxy win the 2009 Western Conference final after a 2–0 overtime victory over the Houston Dynamo. In the final on 22 November 2009, the Galaxy lost to Real Salt Lake by 5–4 in a penalty shoot-out after a 1–1 draw. Beckham also scored in the shootout.
Return to Milan (loan)
In November 2009, after the end of 2009 MLS season, it was confirmed that Beckham would return to Milan for a second loan period beginning in January 2010. On 6 January 2010, Beckham made a winning return in a Milan shirt, playing 75 minutes of a 5–2 victory over Genoa. On 16 February 2010, Beckham played against Manchester United for the first time since he left the club in 2003. He played 76 minutes of the match at the San Siro – which ended 3–2 to Manchester United – before being substituted for Clarence Seedorf.
Beckham returned to Old Trafford for the second leg of the tie on 10 March 2010; he did not start the match, but was brought on for Ignazio Abate in the 64th minute to a positive reception from the Manchester United fans. The score was 3–0 for United at that point and the tie was all but decided. The match was the first time Beckham had played against Manchester United at Old Trafford and saw him create several scoring opportunities via crosses and corner kicks, but Manchester United dominated Milan and beat them 4–0, winning the tie 7–2. Following the final whistle, he aroused a bit of controversy by draping the green-and-gold scarf around his neck that was given to him by the Manchester United supporters protesting against club owner Malcolm Glazer. As the fan protests against Glazer by the people gathered around Manchester United Supporters’ Trust gained steam in 2010, the green-and-gold scarf had come to be seen as an anti-Glazer symbol, and by extension many saw Beckham’s decision to publicly put it on as gesture of support. When asked about it later, however, Beckham responded that protests are not his business.
In Milan’s next game, against Chievo, Beckham suffered a torn left Achilles tendon, causing him to miss the World Cup as well as the MLS season due to the injury, which took him out of action for the next five months. Doctor Sakari Orava performed surgery on Beckham’s tendon in Turku, Finland, on 15 March 2010. After the operation, Orava affirmed that, “it went quite fine. The prognosis is he needs a rehabilitation for the next few months, and the plaster cast is the next six to eight weeks. I would say that [it will be] maybe four months before he’s running, but six months before he’s jumping and kicking.”
Second return to Galaxy
Beckham in 2010
On 11 September 2010, after recovering from his Achilles tendon injury, Beckham returned to the game as a substitute in the 70th minute in the Galaxy’s 3–1 win over Columbus Crew. On 4 October, Beckham scored a trademark free kick in a 2–1 win over Chivas USA to mark his first goal in 2010. On 24 October, Beckham scored his second goal of the season in the Galaxy’s 2–1 win over FC Dallas which secured them their second successive Western Conference title and first MLS Supporters’ Shield since 2002.
During January and February 2011, ahead of the 2011 MLS season, Beckham trained with Tottenham Hotspur. Rumours in the media claimed that the club were in talks with the Galaxy to sign the player on loan, but, according to Spurs manager Harry Redknapp, the move was blocked by Galaxy, who wanted a full final season from their number 23. As a result, he ended up only training with the club as he had done with Arsenal three years earlier. With Beckham playing in the centre of midfield, the Galaxy won the 2011 MLS cup.
MLS Cup champion
Beckham with LA Galaxy in 2012
On 15 May, Beckham scored his first goal of the season for the Galaxy from a 30-yard free kick, in a 4–1 victory over Sporting Kansas City. On 9 July, Beckham scored directly from a corner in a 2–1 win over Chicago Fire, repeating a feat he also achieved while playing for Preston North End.
After having his best season with the Galaxy to date and finishing second in the league in assists, Beckham finished his fifth MLS season on a high. On 20 November 2011, he joined an elite group of players to have won three league titles in three different countries, when Los Angeles won their third MLS Cup against the Houston Dynamo, winning 1–0 on a goal by captain Landon Donovan, with assists from Beckham and fellow designated player Robbie Keane. Had it been Beckham’s final match for the Galaxy, it would have been the third time he has won a league championship in his final match for a club, repeating the feat he accomplished with Manchester United in 2003 and Real Madrid in 2007.
Following the 2011 season, in which the Galaxy won their second consecutive Supporters’ Shield, having the second most points in MLS history, Beckham’s five-year contract with the Galaxy expired on 31 December 2011. Despite being 36, he stated that he did not intend to retire. Beckham was heavily linked with Paris Saint-Germain, but on 18 January 2012, Galaxy announced Beckham had signed a new two-year contract to remain in Los Angeles. In May 2012, Beckham and his victorious teammates were received by President of the United States Barack Obama at the White House.
Beckham helped the Galaxy to a fourth-place finish in the MLS Western Conference 2012 regular season with Beckham scoring seven goals and adding nine assists. The Galaxy defeated Vancouver Whitecaps FC, the San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC and then 3–1 over the Houston Dynamo to retain the MLS Cup. He was subbed off in the 89th minute for Marcelo Sarvas and was given a standing ovation at their home venue. Beckham had earlier announced that the 2012 MLS Cup Final would be his final game with the Galaxy despite having another year remaining on his contract.
Paris Saint-Germain and retirement
On 31 January 2013, ahead of the transfer deadline it was announced that Beckham would be undergoing a medical with Paris Saint-Germain ahead of a potential move to the Ligue 1 side. Beckham signed a five-month deal with the club later that afternoon and confirmed that his entire salary during his time in Paris would be donated to a local children’s charity. His PSG debut came on 24 February 2013, when he came off the bench in the 76th minute in a Ligue 1 home match against Marseille. This made him the 400th player in the history of the club. On 12 May 2013, Beckham won a fourth different top flight winners’ medal after PSG beat Lyon 1–0 to claim the Ligue 1 title.
On 16 May 2013, Beckham announced that he would retire from professional football at the end of that year’s French football season. Following his decision to retire at the end of the 2012–13 season, Beckham was given specially designed boots in the colours of the Union Jack to wear in his final game. These boots had the names of his wife and children stitched on to them. On 18 May 2013, Beckham was made captain in his final home game against Brest. In this game, Beckham assisted a goal by Matuidi from a corner. Beckham was subbed after 80 minutes, receiving hugs from his fellow players and manager, as well as a standing ovation from fans. PSG went on to win the game 3–1.
Beckham made his first appearance for the England national team on 1 September 1996, in a World Cup qualifying match against Moldova.
Beckham had played in all of England’s qualifying matches for the 1998 World Cup and was part of the England squad at the World Cup finals in France, but the team’s manager Glenn Hoddle publicly accused him of not concentrating on the tournament, and he did not start in either of England’s first two games. He was picked for the third game against Colombia and scored with a bending 30-yard free kick in a 2–0 victory, which was his first goal for England.
In the second round (last 16) of that competition, he received a red card in England’s match against Argentina. Beckham, after having been fouled by Diego Simeone, kicked Simeone while lying on the floor, striking him on the calf muscle.Sports Illustrated was critical of the Argentinians’ theatrics in that incident, stating that Simeone first delivered a “heavy-handed challenge” on Beckham and then “fell like a ton of bricks” when Beckham retaliated. Simeone later admitted to trying to get Beckham sent off by over-reacting to the kick and then, along with other members of his team, urging the referee to send Beckham off. The match finished in a draw and England were eliminated in a penalty shootout. Many supporters and journalists blamed him for England’s elimination and he became the target of criticism and abuse, including the hanging of an effigy outside a London pub, and the Daily Mirror printing a dartboard with a picture of him centred on the bullseye. Beckham also received death threats after the World Cup.
The abuse that Beckham was receiving from English supporters peaked during England’s 3–2 defeat by Portugal in Euro 2000, a match where Beckham set up two goals, when a group of England supporters taunted him throughout the match. Beckham responded by raising his middle finger and, while the gesture attracted some criticism, many of the newspapers that had previously encouraged his vilification asked their readers to stop abusing him.
On 15 November 2000, following Kevin Keegan’s resignation as England manager in October, Beckham was promoted to team captain by the caretaker manager Peter Taylor, and then kept the role under new manager Sven-Göran Eriksson.
“We’ve played two and a half minutes of stoppage time. England trail by 2 goals to 1. Beckham could raise the roof here with a goal … I don’t believe it! David Beckham scores the goal to take England all the way to the World Cup Finals! … Give that man a Knighthood!”
—Television commentary on Beckham’s stoppage time 30-yard curling free-kick against Greece in the 2002 World Cup qualifying game in October 2001.
Beckham played a major role in helping England qualify for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, starring in an impressive 5–1 victory over Germany in Munich. The final step in Beckham’s conversion from villain to national hero happened in England’s final qualifying game against Greece on 6 October 2001. England needed to win or draw the match to qualify outright for the World Cup, but were losing 2–1 with little time remaining. When Teddy Sheringham was fouled eight yards outside the Greek penalty area, England were awarded a free-kick and Beckham ensured England’s qualification with a curling strike of the kind that had become his trademark. Beckham was voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 2001, and finished runner-up, to Luís Figo of Portugal, for the FIFA World Player of the Year award.
Beckham was partially fit by the time of the 2002 World Cup held in Japan and South Korea, and played in the first match against Sweden. After the events of four years earlier, Beckham achieved a degree of revenge over Argentina by scoring the winning goal with a penalty, causing Argentina to fail to qualify for the knockout stage. England defeated Denmark in the second round with Beckham providing an assist in a 3–0 win. England were knocked out in the quarter-finals by eventual winners Brazil after Ronaldinho scored the winner.
The following month, at the opening ceremony of the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, Beckham escorted Kirsty Howard as she presented the Jubilee Baton to the Queen. Beckham played in all of England’s matches at Euro 2004. He had a penalty saved in England’s 2–1 defeat to France and missed another in a penalty shootout in the quarter-final match against Portugal. England lost the shootout thus going out of the competition.
Beckham became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in January 2005 and was involved in promoting London’s successful bid for the 2012 Olympic Games. In October 2005, Beckham’s sending off against Austria made him the first England captain to be sent off and the first player to be sent off twice while playing for England. He captained England for the 50th time in a friendly international against Argentina the following month.
In England’s opening game at the 2006 World Cup, against Paraguay on 10 June 2006, Beckham’s free kick led to an own-goal by Carlos Gamarra as England won 1–0. In England’s next match, played against Trinidad and Tobago on 15 June 2006, Beckham’s cross in the 83rd minute led to a Peter Crouch goal, which put England into the lead 1–0. Beckham gave another assist to Steven Gerrard. In the end they won 2–0. He was named Man of the Match by tournament sponsor Budweiser.
During England’s second round match against Ecuador, Beckham scored from a free kick in the 59th minute, becoming the first English player to score in three separate World Cups, and giving England a 1–0 victory and a place in the quarter-finals. He was sick before the game and vomited several times as a result of dehydration and illness that he got after having scored the winning goal for England. In the quarter-final against Portugal, Beckham was substituted following an injury shortly after half time and the England team went on to lose the match on penalties (3–1), the score having been 0–0 after extra time. After his substitution, Beckham was visibly shaken and emotional for not being able to play, being in tears at one point.
A day after England were knocked out of the World Cup, an emotional Beckham made a statement in a news conference that he had stepped down as England captain, stating, “It has been an honour and privilege to captain my country but, having been captain for 58 of my 95 games, I feel the time is right to pass on the armband as we enter a new era under Steve McClaren.” (Beckham had won 94 caps up to that point.) He was succeeded by Chelsea captain John Terry.
Having stepped down as captain after the World Cup, Beckham was dropped completely from the England national team selected by new coach Steve McClaren on 11 August 2006. McClaren claimed that he was “looking to go in a different direction” with the team, and that Beckham “wasn’t included within that.” McClaren said Beckham could be recalled in future. Shaun Wright-Phillips, Kieran Richardson, and the World Cup alternative to Beckham, Aaron Lennon, were all included, although McClaren eventually opted to employ Steven Gerrard in that role.
Beckham takes the free kick against Brazil from which John Terry scored.
On 26 May 2007, McClaren announced that Beckham would be recalled to the England squad for the first time since stepping down as their captain. Beckham started against Brazil in England’s first match at the new Wembley Stadium and put in a positive performance. In the second half, he set up England’s goal converted by captain John Terry. It looked as though England would claim victory over Brazil, but newcomer Diego equalised in the dying seconds. In England’s next match, a Euro 2008 qualifier against Estonia, Beckham sent two trademark assists for Michael Owen and Peter Crouch, helping England to prevail 3–0. Beckham had assisted in three of England’s four total goals in those two games, and he stated his desire to continue to play for England after his move to Major League Soccer.
On 22 August 2007, Beckham played in a friendly for England against Germany, becoming the first to play for England while with a non-European club team. On 21 November 2007, Beckham earned his 99th cap against Croatia, setting up a goal for Peter Crouch to tie the game at 2–2. Following the 2–3 loss, England failed to qualify for the Euro 2008 Finals. Despite this, Beckham said that he has no plans to retire from international football and wanted to continue playing for the national team. After being passed over by new England coach and Beckham’s former manager at Real Madrid, Fabio Capello, for a friendly against Switzerland which would have given him his hundredth cap; Beckham admitted that he was not in shape at the time, as he had not played a competitive match in three months.
On 20 March 2008, Beckham was recalled to the England squad by Capello for the friendly against France in Paris on 26 March. Beckham became only the fifth Englishman to win 100 caps. Capello had hinted on 25 March 2008 that Beckham had a long-term future in his side ahead of crucial qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup. On 11 May 2008, Capello included an in-form Beckham in his 31-man England squad to face the United States at Wembley Stadium on 28 May before the away fixture with Trinidad and Tobago on 1 June. Beckham was honoured before the match by receiving an honorary gold cap representing his 100th cap from Bobby Charlton, and was given a standing ovation from the crowd. He played well and assisted John Terry on the match-winning goal. When substituted at half-time for David Bentley, the pro-Beckham crowd booed the decision. In a surprise move, Capello handed Beckham the captaincy for England’s friendly against Trinidad and Tobago on 1 June 2008. The match was the first time since the 2006 World Cup that Beckham had skippered England and marked a dramatic turnaround for Beckham. In two years, he had gone from being dropped completely from the England squad to being reinstated (though temporarily) as England captain.
During the 2010 World Cup Qualifier against Belarus in which England won 3–1 in Minsk, Beckham came off the bench in the 87th minute to earn his 107th cap making him England’s third-most-capped player in history, overtaking Bobby Charlton in the process. On 11 February 2009, Beckham drew level with Bobby Moore’s record of 108 caps for an English outfield player, coming on as a substitute for Stewart Downing in a friendly match against Spain. On 28 March 2009, Beckham surpassed Moore to hold the record outright when he came on as a substitute in a friendly against Slovakia, providing the assist for a goal from Wayne Rooney in the process. In all, Beckham had made 16 appearances out of a possible 20 for England under Capello until his ruptured Achilles tendon of March 2010 ruled him out of selection for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. His last game for England before injury had been on 14 October 2009 as a substitute in England’s last World Cup qualifying game, which ended England 3 – 0 Belarus.
After a poor performance from England at the World Cup Capello remained as manager, but was under pressure to revamp the England squad for the imminent UEFA Euro 2012 qualification campaign. He unveiled a new team at the next England match, a home friendly game against Hungary on 11 August 2010, with Beckham still unavailable for selection but aiming for a return to playing in MLS by the following month. In the post-match interview, Capello said of the prospect of the now 35-year-old Beckham playing any future competitive matches for England, that “I need to change it. David is a fantastic player but I think we need new players for the future”, referring to the new players that play in Beckham’s right midfield position, including Theo Walcott and Adam Johnson, adding “This is the future of the team under Fabio Capello or another manager.” He said that Beckham may be selected for one last friendly game, stating, “If he is fit, I hope we will play one more game here at Wembley so the fans can say goodbye.” In response to the comments, Beckham’s agent released a statement reiterating Beckham’s position that he had no desire to retire from international football, and would always make himself available for selection for England if fit and if needed. He remains 10 caps short of the record number of 125 caps by goalkeeper Peter Shilton, for a player of any position.
Beckham was named in the provisional squad to represent the Great Britain Olympic football team at the 2012 Olympics. He was not included in the final selection by manager Stuart Pearce.
Awards & Honors
|2006||Teen Choice Awards||Choice Male Athlete||Won|
|2014||Kids’ Choice Sports Awards||Legend Award||Won|
|Club||Season||League||League||Cup||League Cup||Continental||Other[Note 1]||Total|
|Manchester United||1992–93||FA Premier League||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Preston North End (loan)||1994–95||Third Division||5||2||0||0||0||0||–||0||0||5||2|
|Manchester United||1994–95||FA Premier League||4||0||2||0||3||0||1||1||0||0||10||1|
|Manchester United total||265||62||24||6||12||1||83||15||10||1||394||85|
|Real Madrid||2003–04||La Liga||32||3||4||2||–||7||1||2||1||45||7|
|Real Madrid total||116||13||9||4||–||28||2||2||1||155||20|
|Milan (loan)||2008–09||Serie A||18||2||0||0||–||2||0||0||0||20||2|
|Milan (loan)||2009–10||Serie A||11||0||0||0||–||2||0||0||0||13||0|
|LA Galaxy total||98||18||0||0||–||1||1||19||1||118||20|
|Paris Saint-Germain||2012–13||Ligue 1||10||0||2||0||–||2||0||0||0||14||0|
- Includes other competitive competitions, including the FA Community Shield, UEFA Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup, FIFA Club World Cup, Supercopa de España, SuperLiga and the MLS Cup Playoffs
|England national team|
- Manchester United
- Premier League (6): 1995–96, 1996–97, 1998–99, 1999–2000, 2000–01, 2002–03
- FA Cup (2): 1995–96, 1998–99
- FA Community Shield (2): 1996, 1997
- FA Youth Cup (1): 1992
- UEFA Champions League (1): 1998–99
- Intercontinental Cup (1): 1999
- Real Madrid
- La Liga (1): 2006–07
- Supercopa de España (1): 2003
- LA Galaxy
- MLS Cup (2): 2011, 2012
- MLS Supporters’ Shield (2): 2010, 2011
- MLS Western Conference
- Winners (Regular Season) (3): 2009, 2010, 2011
- Winners (Playoffs) (3): 2009, 2011, 2012
- Paris Saint-Germain
- Ligue 1 (1): 2012–13
- Tournoi de France: 1997
- FA Summer Tournament: 2004
- Ballon d’Or – Runner-up: 1999
- FIFA World Player of the Year – Silver Award: 1999, 2001
- Premier League Player of the Month (1): August 1996
- Premier League leader in assists (3): 1997–98, 1999–2000, 2000–01
- PFA Young Player of the Year (1): 1996–97
- FWA Tribute Award: 2008
- Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year (1): 1996–97
- England Player of the Year: 2003
- ESM Team of the Year: 1998–99
- UEFA Club Footballer of the Year (1): 1998–99
- UEFA Club Midfielder of the Year (1): 1998–99
- UEFA Team of the Year: 2001, 2003
- Premier League 10 Seasons Awards (1992–93 to 2001–02):
- Domestic & Overall Team of the Decade
- Goal of the Decade (vs. Wimbledon, 17 August 1996)
- BBC Sports Personality of the Year (1): 2001
- BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award (1): 2010
- Real Madrid Player of the Year (1): 2005–06
- Premier League PFA Team of the Year (4): 1996–97, 1997–98, 1998–99, 1999–2000
- FIFA 100
- ESPY Awards:
- Best Male Soccer Player: 2004
- Best MLS Player (2): 2008, 2012
- English Football Hall of Fame: 2008
- MLS Comeback Player of the Year Award (1): 2011
- PFA Team of the Century (1997–2007): 2007
Orders and special awards
- Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II: 2003
- United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador (2005–present)
- “Britain’s Greatest Ambassador” – 100 Greatest Britons awards
- The Celebrity 100, number 15 – Forbes, 2007
- Number 1 on the list of the 40 most influential men under the age of 40 in the UK – Arena, 2007
- Time 100: 2008
- Gold Blue Peter Badge winner, 2001
- Do Something Athlete Award, 2011
- A.C. Milan Hall of Fame
- First Englishman to win league titles in four different countries (England, Spain, United States, France).
- First England player to score at three FIFA World Cups.
- First British footballer to play 100 UEFA Champions League games.
- Seventh in the Premier League’s all time assist provider chart, with 80 assists in 265 appearances.
In 1997, Beckham started dating Victoria Adams, after she attended a Manchester United match. She was famously known as “Posh Spice” of the pop music group Spice Girls, one of the world’s top pop groups at the time, and his team was also enjoying a great run of success. Therefore, their relationship instantly attracted a great deal of media attention. The couple were dubbed “Posh and Becks” by the media. He proposed to her on 24 January 1998 in a restaurant in Cheshunt, England.
On 4 July 1999, they married at Luttrellstown Castle in Ireland. Beckham’s teammate Gary Neville was the best man, and the couple’s infant son, Brooklyn, was the ring bearer. The media were kept away from the ceremony, as the Beckhams had an exclusive deal with OK! Magazine, but newspapers were still able to obtain photographs showing them sitting on golden thrones. 437 staff were employed for the wedding reception, which was estimated to have cost £500,000.
David and Victoria Beckham have four children: sons Brooklyn Joseph (born 4 March 1999 in Westminster, London), Romeo James (born 1 September 2002 in Westminster, London), Cruz David (born 20 February 2005 in Madrid, Spain), and daughter Harper Seven (born 10 July 2011, in Los Angeles, California). Elton John is godfather to Brooklyn and Romeo Beckham; their godmother is Elizabeth Hurley. Beckham’s three sons have all played football in the Arsenal Academy. Like their father, Brooklyn and Romeo have both done modelling work and been named among GQ’s best dressed British men. Beckham’s eldest son Brooklyn previously played football for Arsenal U16, but was released at the end of the 2014–15 season.
In his early Manchester United career, Beckham lived in a four-bedroom house in Worsley that he bought directly from the property developer as a 20-year-old in 1995.
Beckham suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which he says makes him “have everything in a straight line or everything has to be in pairs.” Victoria Beckham claims, “If you open our fridge, it’s all co-ordinated down either side. We’ve got three fridges – food in one, salad in another and drinks in the third. In the drinks one, everything is symmetrical. If there’s three cans, he’ll throw one away because it has to be an even number.”
In April 2004, the British tabloid News of the World carried claims by Beckham’s former personal assistant Rebecca Loos that he and Loos had an extramarital affair. A week later, the Malaysian-born Australian model Sarah Marbeck claimed that she had slept with Beckham on two occasions. Beckham dismissed both accusations as “ludicrous”.
In September 2010, Beckham announced that he was making a court application against prostitute Irma Nici and several others over claims in the magazine In Touch that he had sex with her. Although the magazine later accepted that the allegations against Beckham were untrue, his court application was dismissed under US freedom of speech laws.
Beckham in Cape Town, South Africa, December 2009
Beckham’s fame extends beyond the pitch; in much of the world his name is “as instantly recognisable as that of multinational companies like Coca-Cola and IBM.” Beckham’s relationship and marriage to Victoria, who has been famous in her own right as part of the Spice Girls, contributed to his celebrity beyond football.
Beckham became known as a fashion icon, and together with Victoria, the couple became lucrative spokespeople sought after by clothing designers, health and fitness specialists, fashion magazines, perfume and cosmetics manufacturers, hair stylists, exercise promoters, and spa and recreation companies. One example is a line of aftershave and fragrances called David Beckham Instinct. In 2002, Beckham was hailed as the ultimate “metrosexual” by the man who invented the term and has been described as such by numerous other articles since. ]The Beckhams were paid $13.7 million in 2007 to launch his fragrance line in the U.S. In the world of fashion, David has already appeared on the covers of many magazines. U.S. covers have included the men’s magazine Details, and with his wife for the August 2007 issue of W. According to Google, “David Beckham” was searched for more than any other sports topic on their site in 2003 and 2004. According to Ask Jeeves, Beckham ranked third, after Britney Spears and Osama bin Laden, among subjects most searched for by British users of that site in the first decade of the 2000s.
Upon their arrival in Los Angeles on 12 July 2007, the night before Beckham’s formal introduction, Los Angeles International Airport was filled with paparazzi and news reporters. On the next night, Victoria appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to talk about their move to LA, and presented Leno with a number 23 Galaxy jersey with his own name on the back. Victoria also talked about her NBC TV show Victoria Beckham: Coming to America. On 22 July, a private welcoming party was held for the couple at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. A-list celebrities attending included Steven Spielberg, Jim Carrey, George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Oprah Winfrey.
Beckham’s many endorsement deals make him one of the most recognisable athletes throughout the world. Having worn Adidas football boots from the start of his career (notably Adidas Predator), in 2003 he signed a $160 million lifetime contract with Adidas, earning nearly half the money upfront, and will continue to earn percentages of profits on all of his branded Adidas products. He had a 10-year collaboration with Pepsi Co. that expired in 2009. He has also promoted Walt Disney Co. theme parks.
Beckham with United States First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House, March 2012
Beckham has several eponymous video games, including Go! Go! Beckham! Adventure on Soccer Island, a platform game for the Game Boy Advance, and David Beckham Soccer, a football game for a number of different platforms, and he was brand ambassador for exercise video game EA Sports Active 2. Beckham featured in EA Sports’ FIFA video game series; he was on the cover for the International edition of FIFA 98.
During his playing career (which ended in May 2013), Beckham generated an estimated £1 billion in shirt and boot sales. In 2006, Lloyd’s of London insured his legs for £100m, at the time he was playing for Real Madrid. In March 2015 Beckham had the third highest social media rank in the world among sportspeople, behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, with over 52 million Facebook fans.
Beckham visited Afghanistan in May 2010 for a morale-boosting visit to British troops fighting the Taliban insurgency. The appearance of Beckham as well as British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Defence Secretary Liam Fox was believed to have prompted a Taliban attack on Kandahar airfield.
Chinese authorities appointed Beckham as global ambassador for Chinese football in March 2013. After numerous officials had been banned for match-fixing, and the Chinese Super League had failed to retain the services of well-known international names, Beckham’s role was to help improve the image of the game and raise its profile both in China and abroad.
From 14 July 2013, Beckham started appearing in adverts for BSkyB advertising their Sky Sports coverage via the Sky Go app. In January 2014, Beckham appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on NBC in the U.S, and in March he made a guest appearance in the BBC’s Sport Relief special of Only Fools and Horses. He was named one of GQ’s 50 best dressed British men in 2015.
Beckham has supported UNICEF since his days at Manchester United and in January 2005, the English national team captain became a Goodwill Ambassador with a special focus on UNICEF’s Sports for Development program. In 2012, he met with UK Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street to call for more action to help children affected by malnutrition around the world. In 2015, his tenth year as a UNICEF Ambassador, Beckham launched 7: The David Beckham UNICEF Fund to help protect children in danger. In June 2015 he visited Siem Reap in Cambodia, where he met with child victims of violence. Beckham has pledged his support for the Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS campaign. He is also a patron of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
On 17 January 2007, Rebecca Johnstone, a 19-year-old cancer patient from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, received a surprise phone call from Beckham. After the conversation, he sent her a Real Madrid jersey with his signature on it. Rebecca died on 29 January 2007. On 1 July 2007, Beckham appeared as a speaker at the Concert for Diana held at Wembley Stadium, London to celebrate the life of Princess Diana almost 10 years after her death. Proceeds from the concert went to Diana’s charities as well as to charities of which her sons Princes William and Harry are patrons.
Beckham is a founding member of the Malaria No More UK Leadership Council and helped launch the charity in 2009 with Andy Murray at Wembley Stadium. Beckham also appeared in a 2007 public service announcement for Malaria No More U.S, advertising the need for inexpensive bed nets. The TV spot aired in the U.S. on Fox Networks, including Fox Soccer Channel, and can also be seen on YouTube.
Since joining Major League Soccer, Beckham has been a very public advocate in the U.S. for related charities such as “MLS W.O.R.K.S.” On 17 August 2007, he conducted a youth clinic in Harlem, along with other current and former MLS players. This was in advance of his first New York City area match the following day against the New York Red Bulls. That team’s Jozy Altidore and Juan Pablo Ángel were also with Beckham, teaching skills to disadvantaged youth to benefit FC Harlem Lions.