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The Return of England's Prodigal Son

Sam Wallace of the Independent says David Beckham's recall to Steve McClaren's England, "a momentous occasion in English football history," which comes nearly a year after he "gave up the captaincy in front of the world's press for the most dramatic public abdication since Edward VIII," was almost eerily low-key. And why is that? Maybe, Wallace suggests, it's because the new David Beckham has learned something in the 11 months since captaining England through another World Cup of disappointing underachievement. "The new Beckham is sober, understated and unwilling to hog the limelight," he says.

Indeed, he's had to be. The man whose global fame is "third only to Michael Jordan and Mickey Mouse," was dropped on his face by both club and country at the start of this season. Many felt Beckham's decision to join Major League Soccer was the equivalent of his throwing in the towel on his soccer career. Real Madrid certainly did. But, boy, were Fabio Capello and company wrong. And you could argue that Beckham's Real resurgence has been the driving inspiration behind the entire team finding form. McClaren can only hope his return has a similar effect on England's feckless Euro 2008 qualifying campaign.

But Wallace says the circumstances of his return have created a weird atmosphere in the England camp. In training on Monday, the players "seemed a bit like a family who have recently welcomed a close relative back from prison...but no one wants to mention why he has been away. The smiles were a little strained." However, if Real Madrid wins the league in Spain, don't be surprised if Becks brings the Brits back into Euro contention, too.

Read the whole story at Independent »

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