With the sarongs, the Spice Girls and the selection of haircuts, it’s easy to overlook what a cracking footballer David Beckham is.
One Champions League, six Premier Leagues, two FA Cups, one La Liga, one MLS Cup and 109 England caps makes for a truly astonishing career.
Here we lovingly look back on a wonderful life and pick the 10 moments which defined David Beckham.
September 1992: And so it begins
Yes, 1995/96 was the season Beckham truly first broke through, but he actually made his United debut in an FA Cup match away to Brighton more than 20 years ago. Beckham would go on to play for United 394 times, scoring 85 goals and becoming one of the most celebrated players in the great club’s history.
August 1996: Goal against Wimbledon
Beckham’s superstar stock rose considerably with this wonder-goal against Wimbledon at Selhurst Park at the start of the 1996/97 season. With Dons goalkpeeper Neil Sullivan off his line, Beckham scored from inside his own half with an audacious 57-yard effort. From this moment on, anything Beckham did that was slightly out of the ordinary – ranging from a free-kick to a haircut – received special treatment from the British media.
June 1998: Red card against Argentina
Every great story needs to have a nadir, and this was Beckham’s. With Beckham enjoying celebrity status by now, this red card against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup saw him become public enemy No1 – for a little while, at least. Would Beckham bounce back? Good gracious, yes. And how.
May 1999: The Treble
Beckham found solace in the arms of Manchester United, who enjoyed their greatest-ever season in 1998/99. Beckham proved a key component in the Red machine’s march towards an unprecedented Treble, as the midfielder and United lifted the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup in an astonishing season for Sir Alex Ferguson and his side.
October 2001: Greece is the word
In one of the most complete performances by an England player, Beckham almost single-handedly dragged his side to the 2002 with a spine-tinglingly glorious display against Greece. Now England captain, his free-kick secured a 2-2 draw and made him a bona fide great. Given the occasion and given a place at the World Cup was at stake, no England player has since played better over 90 minutes.
June 2002: Redemption song
Beckham wiped away the painful memories of Stade Geoffroy-Guichard six years previously by scoring the only goal of the game in a fraught match with bitter rivals Argentina. The ghost of St Etienne was truly exorcised, although the tournament ultimately proved frustrating, with England crashing out to Brazil in the quarter-final.
June 2003: Reign in Spain
By now the most recognisable footballer on the planet – heck, one of the most recognisable people, period – Beckham swapped the rain in Manchester to reign in Spain with the galacticos of Real Madrid. After years of consistent excellence at Old Trafford, Beckham joined the list of illustrious great United No7s: George Best, Bryan Robson and Eric Cantona.
July 2005: Holding a torch
If you could handpick an international ambassador to help secure the Olympic Games, you would do well to better David Beckham. Brand Beckham played a pivotal role in bringing the Games to Britain; it was ultimately a selfless act, given he ended up missing out on Stuart Pearce’s squad for 2012. The summer spectacle proved an unqualified success for Team GB. Viva Beckham!
June 2007: American beauty
Beckham was one of the players of the season in his final year with Real Madrid, helping them secure La Liga under the canny management of Fabio Capello. With Spain conquered it was time for a fresh challenge: the United States. Beckham helped catapult the name of soccer and the MLS, raising the sport’s profile not just in the US, but around the world.
June 2012: Cap it off
Beckham was presented with a commemorative cap at half-time during England’s match with Belgium at Wembley to mark becoming an international centurion. It marked the end of a fine England career, which saw the former Manchester United midfielder earn 109 caps – a record for an outfield player. With Beckham now looking for a fresh challenge having left Los Angeles Galaxy, the future remains bright.