England coach Fabio Capello invited a torrent of criticism from the British press when he compared David Beckham to Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo in a news conference on Thursday. Capello started by saying he had deployed Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney in the natural positions they play for their clubs, attacking center midfield and center forward, respectively. "And I have Beckham who can be our Ronaldo," he continued, "and Rooney can be our Torres. And I believe they are both good players."
To be sure, the Beckham-bashers came out in full force in the wake of those comments. Even the Times' Martin Samuel, more temperate than most in his criticism of Beckham and Capello, is worried by this departure from reality. "Recasting Beckham as Ronaldo ... is to fly in the face of reason. Even were Beckham at his peak it would be a fantastic suggestion ... their styles are so different as to be almost beyond compare."
Indeed, Beckham at his peak never came anywhere near bagging 30 goals in a season for Manchester United (Ronaldo currently has 33). He certainly set up his fair share of goals, but Beckham's game was all about making his teammates better through clever passing and dangerous crosses and set pieces. Ronaldo, on the other hand, dominates games with blinding speed, strength and skill. Even his set pieces are getting better. Apart from the ability to strike a ball, Beckham never possessed any of these traits.