By Paul Gardner
It's surely no longer possible to believe that David Beckham is in touch with reality. For a while there, last month, it looked as though he had discovered a splendid role for himself as an impressive ambassador for England's World Cup bid.
In the welter of politicians and show-biz celebrities, DB shone through as a genuine soccer person, and a warm human being, too.
England’s bid, of course, was a colossal failure, but that was hardly DB’s fault -- he was one of the few people involved to come away with his status enhanced. Sadly, it hasn’t taken him long to scuttle that position. Here we go again, with DB resuming his more familiar role as the lead-clown in the low-down, knock-about, vaudeville farce that has surrounded him ever since he arrived in the USA.
DB, it seems, must be playing soccer year-round. Otherwise he can’t possibly be fit ... or at least he can’t be fit enough to play for England ... or rather he can’t be fit enough to be considered as a possible England player by Coach Fabio Capello.
Various thoughts occur. If DB, at age 35, is still a possible England player, then the England team must be even worse than it looked in South Africa. And has DB not been paying attention to the messages his own body has been sending him for several years now? Actually, no, he has not -- he really does seem to consider himself a soccer superman.
His tedious four years with the Galaxy tell a wildly different story. His sporadic playing time for the team has been occasioned by his picking up injuries. When he has played, he has never looked anything other than a tired player ... and he has usually found a way to let everyone know that he is playing through pain -- a hobbling limp here, a grimace there, an ice-pack and a few bandages, and so on.
With the result that the Galaxy has not won anything with DB aboard -- has in fact been a remarkably dull team that has not really deserved to win anything.
The glorious climax to DB’s insistence on his own invulnerability came last year when he convinced the Galaxy, for the second year running, to allow him to zoom off to Italy on loan to AC Milan.
The Galaxy should have known better. Maybe it did, but DB has a way of getting whatever he wants out of the Galaxy. So off he went, and in no time at all that wonderful supremely fit body of his caved in, and a torn Achilles’ tendon kept him sidelined for six months -- which meant that his treasured notion of playing for England in the World Cup went up in smoke.
He returned to action with the Galaxy last September, dubiously fit but certainly out of form if not out of shape. His mediocre on-field performances did nothing to prevent another unsuccessful season for the Galaxy.
That catalogue of poor decisions, miscues and injuries would have convinced any mere mortal to stop trying to defy old age with around-the-calendar soccer. But not our DB: “My body feels good at the moment,” he explains -- which is why the rumors are flying about him going off on loan to Europe yet again.
This time, it seems that DB will have to cross swords with his Galaxy bosses. The Galaxy has issued a statement that seems to squelch any idea of a loan deal, and that appears to tell DB that, for once, he has to put the Galaxy first: “We are not aware that David [Beckham] is looking to be loaned to any other team and we are fully expecting he reports with the rest of his Galaxy teammates in late January for the upcoming season.”
That sounds pretty conclusive. But not to DB and his advisers, who have simply ignored that warning and are talking up a storm about a new loan -- to a club in England this time. A DB spokesman revealed that “[Tottenham] Spurs are one of many clubs interested -- but we have not yet had detailed talks.”
Oh? No talks? Not yet, because DB & Co., “are waiting on the decision of LA Galaxy with regards to a loan move.” In other words, the Galaxy statement is being treated as so much piffle that the clout of DB can quickly nix. Past experience suggests that they’re probably right.
Talks or no talks, the DB camp has it all worked out: “The loan,” they say, “would be a short one until the start of the MLS season. David would then return and play a full season with the Galaxy. The loan is part of David's desire to keep fit and make himself available for England again.”
This is evidently no longer about DB playing for England’s World Cup team -- even he cannot be seriously expecting to be on the 2014 team, at age 39. So what is he after? Well, there’s the Great Britain Olympic team in the 2012 London Olympic Games (now there’s a title the English might actually have a chance of winning) ... or there’s the dream of a gala farewell game sometime in Wembley Stadium.
Into this swirling fog of contradictory statements and personal promotions we can welcome the sharp light thrown by one Bernie Kingsley, the Chairman of the Tottenham Supporters' Trust.
Kingsley has a word to describe the possible arrival of DB at Tottenham. The word is “dreadful.” Kingsley continues: “He's one of the most over-rated players in the game. He's a circus and totally about David Beckham -- not who he plays for. I just don't want to see him anywhere near Tottenham. We have a good team and we're having a good season ... [we] don't need the distraction of some prima donna player who is only interested in himself.”
Bravo Bernie! for those striking words that will no doubt find some resonance among Galaxy supporters.