David Beckham – Encyclopedia

David Beckham, born on May 2, 1975, is a retired English footballer. He’s now the president and co-owner of Inter Miami and a co-owner of Salford City. Famous for his precise passes, excellent crosses, and skillful free-kicks as a right winger, Beckham is widely recognized as one of the best midfielders of his time and a top set-piece specialist. He made history as the first English player to secure league titles in England, Spain, the United States, and France.

Beckham kicked off his professional club career with Manchester United, debuting in 1992 at the age of 17. During his time with United, he clinched the Premier League title six times, the FA Cup twice, and the UEFA Champions League in 1999.

He later played four seasons with Real Madrid, winning the La Liga championship in his last season with the club. In 2007, he signed a five-year contract with LA Galaxy in Major League Soccer, with two loan spells in Italy with AC Milan in 2009 and 2010. He retired in May 2013 after a 20-year career, boasting 19 major trophies.

On the international stage, Beckham made his England debut in 1996 at the age of 21, eventually captaining the team for six years and earning 58 caps during his tenure. He made a total of 115 career appearances, participating in three FIFA World Cup tournaments and two UEFA European Championship tournaments. He held the record for the most appearances by an outfield player for England until 2016.

Beyond his playing career, Beckham is a global ambassador of football and a British cultural icon. He was a Ballon d’Or runner-up in 1999, twice FIFA World Player of the Year runner-up, and was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players in 2004. Inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Premier League Hall of Fame in 2021, Beckham has been a UNICEF ambassador since 2005 and launched the David Beckham UNICEF Fund in 2015.

Known for his success on and off the field, Beckham has consistently ranked among the highest earners in football. He was the highest-paid player in the world in 2013, earning over $50 million in the previous twelve months. Married to Victoria Beckham since 1999, they have four children. In 2014, it was announced that Beckham and a group of investors would own Inter Miami, which began playing in 2020.

Early life

His parents, Sandra Georgina (formerly West), a hairdresser, and David Edward Alan “Ted” Beckham, a kitchen fitter, tied the knot in 1969 in the London Borough of Hackney. Beckham got his middle name, Robert, in tribute to his father’s favorite footballer, Bobby Charlton. He has two siblings—an older sister named Lynne Georgina and a younger sister named Joanne Louise. Growing up, Beckham attended Chingford County High School in Nevin Drive, Chingford.

Reflecting on his school days, Beckham mentioned in a 2007 interview, “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, leading him to describe himself as “half Jewish.” In his autobiography, he noted, “I’ve probably had more contact with Judaism than with any other religion.” Beckham shared in his book “Both Feet on the Ground” that he attended church weekly with his parents during his childhood, as it was a prerequisite for playing football for their team.

His parents were ardent Manchester United fans, often making the 200-mile journey from London to Old Trafford for the team’s home matches. Beckham inherited their love for Manchester United, and his primary passion was football. He even attended one of Bobby Charlton’s Soccer Schools in Manchester and earned the opportunity to train with Barcelona as part of a talent competition.

His early football days included playing for the local youth team Ridgeway Rovers, coached by his father, Stuart Underwood, and Steve Kirby. Beckham served as a Manchester United mascot in 1986 and had trials with local clubs Leyton Orient and Norwich City, as well as attending Tottenham Hotspur’s school of excellence.

Despite not representing Tottenham in a match, Beckham was named Under-15 Player of the Year in 1990 during his time with Brimsdown Rovers’ youth team. He also attended Bradenton Preparatory Academy but signed schoolboy forms at Manchester United on his 14th birthday, ultimately securing a Youth Training Scheme contract on July 8, 1991. Beckham faced challenges as a late developer and was initially overlooked for the England Schoolboys’ team due to his small size.

Club career

Manchester United

1991–1994: Youth and Early Career

Beckham, after signing with Manchester United as a trainee on July 8, 1991, joined a promising group of young players, including Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt, and Paul Scholes. Coached by Eric Harrison, they played a crucial role in the club winning the FA Youth Cup in May 1992. In the final against Crystal Palace on April 14, 1992, Beckham scored the second goal in their 3–1 first-leg victory. His impactful performance led to a first-team debut on September 23, 1992, as a substitute in a League Cup match against Brighton & Hove Albion. Shortly after, on January 23, 1993, Beckham signed as a professional.

The FA Youth Cup success continued, reaching the final against Leeds United. Despite a 2–0 home loss in the first leg on May 10, 1993, and a 2–1 defeat in the second leg on May 13, Beckham played the full 90 minutes. Manchester United’s reserve team also secured the league title in 1994. Beckham made his full appearance for the first team against Port Vale in a League Cup fixture in September 1994. On December 7, 1994, he made his UEFA Champions League debut, scoring in a 4–0 victory against Galatasaray.

1994–1995: Loan to Preston North End

In the 1994–95 season, Beckham went on loan to Preston North End to gain valuable first-team experience. Reflecting on the experience in 2023, Beckham explained, “I arrived thinking that Manchester United didn’t want me anymore. You had to perform because if not, you’re going to get let go. So you’re constantly thinking you’re not safe.” During his loan spell, Beckham scored two goals in five appearances, including a notable goal directly from a corner kick.

1995–1996: Return to United and First Championship

Beckham returned to Manchester United and made his Premier League debut on April 2, 1995, in a goalless draw against Leeds United. Although he played four league games that season, United finished second behind Blackburn Rovers, missing out on a third successive Premier League title by a single point. Despite not being in the squad for the FA Cup final, Beckham played a key role in helping United secure the Premier League title and FA Cup double that season.

United’s manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, showed great confidence in the club’s young players, and Beckham, as part of “Fergie’s Fledglings,” played a significant role. The season marked Beckham’s transition to United’s right-sided midfielder, contributing to the team’s success in the Premier League and FA Cup.

1996–1998: First-Choice and Inheriting No. 7 Shirt

In the 1996–97 season, Beckham was given the coveted number 10 shirt and became a household name after scoring a spectacular goal against Wimbledon on August 17, 1996. During the season, Beckham established himself as an automatic first-choice player, aiding Manchester United in retaining the Premier League title. In the 1997–98 season, he inherited the iconic number 7 shirt, previously worn by legends like George Best and Eric Cantona. Despite erratic performances in the second half of the season, Beckham’s contributions included leading the league in assists and scoring crucial goals.

1998–1999: Treble

The 1998–99 season was historic for Beckham as part of the United team that secured the treble – winning the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League. His memorable goal against Tottenham in the final league match secured the Premier League title for United. In the Champions League Final against Bayern Munich, Beckham played in central midfield, delivering two crucial assists in injury time that led to United’s victory. Despite being runner-up for the 1999 European Footballer of the Year and FIFA World Player of the Year awards, Beckham’s outstanding performances contributed significantly to United’s success.

1999–2000: Another Championship

Despite facing criticism and controversies, including an on-field red card in the World Club Championship, Beckham played a crucial role in helping United retain the Premier League title in the 1999–2000 season. His contributions, including a swerving shot from the edge of the penalty area against Tottenham Hotspur, showcased his prowess on the field.

2000–2001: Troubled Relationship with Ferguson

In the early 2000s, tensions between Beckham and manager Sir Alex Ferguson arose, possibly due to Beckham’s growing fame and commitments outside football. Despite off-field controversies, including missing training to care for his son Brooklyn and facing criticism from Ferguson, Beckham had a stellar season, aiding United in winning the Premier League by a record margin.

2001–2002: Contract Extension

Beckham faced challenges during the 2001–02 season, including a metatarsal bone injury. Despite the setback, he signed a three-year contract in May, making him the highest-paid player in the world at the time. Beckham’s remarkable season included scoring 16 goals in all competitions.

2002–2003: Boot Incident and United Exit

The 2002–03 season saw Beckham struggling to regain his place in the Manchester United team after an early-season injury. A notable incident occurred when a boot thrown by Alex Ferguson struck Beckham over the eye following an FA Cup defeat to Arsenal. Speculation about Beckham’s future intensified, but he remained a first-choice player for England and received an OBE for services to football in June 2003.

Beckham concluded his remarkable tenure at Manchester United, making 265 Premier League appearances, scoring 61 goals, and contributing significantly to the club’s success with six Premier League titles, two FA Cups, one European Cup, one Intercontinental Cup, and one FA Youth Cup over twelve years. At this point, he was the joint second-longest serving player for the club, alongside Nicky Butt, Gary Neville, and Paul Scholes, trailing only behind Ryan Giggs.

Real Madrid

2003–2004: Joining the Galácticos

“He’s a fantastic player who’s making history with our club. A symbol of modern stardom, Real Madrid signed Beckham not just for his talent, but for his dedication and team spirit. He’s one of the best English players ever, and that’s why he’s with us.” — Real Madrid President Florentino Pérez at Beckham’s introduction.

As the summer transfer window approached in 2003, Manchester United seemed eager to sell Beckham to Barcelona, with both clubs even announcing a deal. However, the twist came when Beckham joined reigning Spanish champions Real Madrid for €37 million on a four-year contract.

This move marked him as the latest addition to the Galácticos era, characterized by global star signings orchestrated by club president Florentino Pérez each summer. The news hit newly elected Barcelona president Joan Laporta hard, as Beckham had been a cornerstone of his campaign.

The transfer to Real Madrid was made official in mid-June and was completed on July 1, 2003. Beckham, becoming the third Englishman to play for the club after Laurie Cunningham and Steve McManaman, was unveiled in front of 500 journalists from 25 countries at the club’s basketball facility. There, he received the iconic white shirt from former Real Madrid player Alfredo Di Stéfano.

Despite his history of wearing the number seven shirt, Beckham opted for number 23, citing his admiration for basketball legend Michael Jordan, who also wore that number. The arrival of Beckham sparked a surge in sales of related merchandise, with Real Madrid experiencing unprecedented demand.

In the week leading up to Beckham’s presentation, Real named Carlos Queiroz as their new head coach. This reunion was special for Beckham, as Queiroz had been Ferguson’s assistant at Manchester United the previous season. The club capitalized on Beckham’s massive popularity in Asia during their pre-season tour of the Far East. Marca, a Spanish publication, likened the reception to “Beckham-mania in China.” Real Madrid’s brand recognition in the region had already been strong, but with Beckham on board, the tour became a massive financial success.

Shortly after the transfer, Beckham parted ways with his agent Tony Stephens of SFX Europe, opting to sign with Simon Fuller and his company 19 Entertainment, which also managed the career of his wife, Victoria. Additionally, he appointed close friend Terry Byrne as his personal manager.

“We knew before he was a good player, but we did not expect him to be such an influential player, to show such commitment to the team spirit. The way he runs for everything, the way he tries his best. He has everyone’s respect.” — Ronaldo speaking about Beckham in October 2003.

In late August 2003, Real Madrid secured the Spanish Super Cup over two legs against Mallorca, with Beckham scoring the final goal in a 3–0 return leg win at home. This victory set the stage for the league season, where Beckham seamlessly integrated into a star-studded team featuring Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, Luís Figo, Roberto Carlos, Raúl, and Iker Casillas. Employing the adaptable 5–3–2 formation, Beckham played a key role in midfield, contributing five goals in his first 16 matches.

Despite the individual successes, Real Madrid finished as runners-up in the Copa del Rey, exited the UEFA Champions League at the quarter-final stage, and concluded the league season in fourth place. This outcome fell short of the high expectations set by club president Pérez. In July 2004, an intruder attempted to breach security at the Beckham home in Spain, creating a concerning situation for the family.

2004–2005: Managerial Changes

The 2004–2005 season kicked off with a new head coach, José Antonio Camacho, but he resigned after only three matches, leaving the team in eighth place. Mariano García Remón took over on a temporary basis, but Beckham made headlines in October 2004 for admitting to intentionally fouling Ben Thatcher in an England match against Wales to get booked. This strategic move allowed him to serve a suspension in a match he would have missed anyway due to injury. Although Beckham faced disciplinary issues, the Football Association accepted his apology.

By Christmas 2004, with the team in second position, García Remón was dismissed, and Vanderlei Luxemburgo became the new head coach. However, despite Beckham’s return to the team, Real Madrid finished the season in second place. In December 2005, Beckham was sent off for the third time that season in a league match against Getafe. A day later, Luxemburgo was sacked, and Juan Ramón López Caro became the new head coach. Beckham ended the season ranking third in La Liga in assists.

2005–2006: Outpaced by Barcelona

During the season, Beckham established football academies in Los Angeles and East London and served as a judge for the 2006 British Book Awards. Real Madrid finished second to Barcelona in the 2005–06 La Liga, with a notable twelve-point gap. The club reached the last 16 in the Champions League but was eliminated by Arsenal. The season marked the end of an era for Real Madrid as president Pérez resigned in January 2006.

2006–2007: Real Madrid Exit

The summer of 2006 brought changes as the club’s presidential elections took place. Ramón Calderón became the new Real president, and Fabio Capello arrived as the head coach. Initially out of favor with Capello, Beckham started only a few games early in the season.

However, he eventually returned to the first team and played a crucial role in Real Madrid’s turnaround. On January 10, 2007, Real Madrid’s sporting director Predrag Mijatović announced that Beckham would not remain at Real Madrid after the end of the season.

On January 11, 2007, Beckham revealed that he had signed a five-year deal to play for the LA Galaxy, starting from July 1, 2007. Fabio Capello later stated that Beckham had played his last game for Real Madrid, although he continued to train with the team.

Calderón commented on Beckham’s move to Hollywood, and while Beckham’s contract situation became a topic of discussion, he eventually rejoined the team for a match against Real Sociedad on February 10, 2007. In his final UEFA Champions League appearance for Real Madrid, the club was eliminated by Bayern Munich at the round-of-16 stage. Beckham played a crucial role in the home game, with Bayern goalkeeper Oliver Kahn describing his performance as “world class.”

Liga season, Beckham started in his final match for Real Madrid, a 3–1 win over Mallorca. This victory secured the La Liga title for Real Madrid, their first since Beckham joined the club. Despite finishing level on points with Barcelona, Real Madrid claimed the title due to a superior head-to-head record, completing a remarkable six-month turnaround. Beckham’s contribution was significant, and with his family and celebrity friends watching from a luxury box, it marked his second piece of silverware with the club.

Towards the end of the season, Beckham’s relationship with Capello improved, and there were attempts by Real Madrid to undo his transfer to LA Galaxy, which were ultimately unsuccessful. A month after Beckham’s departure from Real Madrid, Forbes magazine reported that he had played a major role in the team’s merchandise sales, contributing to a total reported to exceed US$600 million during his four years at the club.

LA Galaxy

“I’m not here to be a superstar. I’m here to be part of the team, work hard, and hopefully win things. It’s about football for me. I want to make a difference. I’m not saying I’ll make soccer the biggest sport in America, that would be tough. 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 joining MLS.

Beckham’s venture into Major League Soccer (MLS) took off while he was still with Real Madrid. The confirmation came on January 11, 2007, that he would leave Madrid in six months to join MLS side LA Galaxy. This announcement put an end to speculations about his new contract in Madrid, and the next day, Beckham’s official press conference coincided with the 2007 MLS SuperDraft.

The news made global headlines, boosting the league’s visibility. While initial reports suggested a deal worth $250 million, it turned out to be more of a PR move. The actual contract with the Galaxy was a five-year deal totaling $32.5 million or $6.5 million per year. The media frenzy surrounding Beckham’s signing paid off for the Galaxy, securing a new $20 million, five-year shirt sponsorship deal with Herbalife. The club also witnessed increased gate revenue, with 11,000 new season ticket holders and sold-out luxury suites.

Beckham’s arrival had a broader impact on AEG, the owners of LA Galaxy, expanding their business worldwide. The CEO noted, “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 following months, additional details about Beckham’s contract emerged. He had the option to buy an MLS expansion franchise (excluding New York City) for $25 million after retiring. Another provision allowed him to leave the club after the 2009 season if he chose to. To navigate the league’s salary cap, the Designated Player Rule, later named after him, was established. In April 2007, Beckham and his wife purchased an $18.2 million home in Beverly Hills.

Beckham’s contract with LA Galaxy officially began on July 11, and on July 13, he was unveiled as a Galaxy player at the Home Depot Center, garnering attention from fans and media worldwide. Wearing the number 23 jersey, Beckham’s impact was evident as Galaxy jersey sales surpassed 250,000 before his formal introduction.

In addition to his on-field contributions, Beckham’s off-field presence was leveraged for media exposure. He featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, starred in an Adidas ad campaign, and participated in a reality show aired on NBC. The Hollywood rollout was further emphasized with a welcoming party at the Creative Artists Agency’s headquarters, signaling his broader influence beyond the soccer field.

Beckham made his Galaxy debut on July 21, amid a star-studded crowd and media coverage. Despite a brief appearance, the match highlighted the Beckham spectacle. His subsequent matches faced challenges, with injuries and controversies impacting his early days in the MLS.

The LA Galaxy chapter marked a significant phase in Beckham’s career, setting the stage for his journey in American soccer.

Paris Saint Germain

On January 31, 2013, just before the transfer deadline, PSG announced that they were conducting a medical check on Beckham, with the possibility of him moving to the Ligue 1 side. Later that afternoon, Beckham officially signed a five-month deal with the club and announced that he would be donating his entire salary during his stint in Paris to a local children’s charity.

Beckham played his first game with PSG on February 24, 2013, entering as a substitute in the 76th minute during a Ligue 1 home match against Marseille, marking him as the 400th player in the club’s history.

By May 12, 2013, Beckham had added another top-flight winners’ medal to his collection as PSG secured the Ligue 1 title with a 1-0 victory over Lyon. On May 16, 2013, Beckham announced his decision to retire from professional football at the end of the French football season.

As a farewell touch, specially designed boots in the colors of the Union Jack were given to him for his last game, featuring the names of his wife and kids stitched on.

On May 18, 2013, Beckham captained his final home game against Brest. During the match, he assisted a goal by Matuidi from a corner. After playing for 80 minutes, Beckham was subbed off, receiving hugs from teammates and the manager, along with a standing ovation from the fans. PSG went on to win the game 3–1.

Style of play

Beckham, a standout player of his generation, was renowned for his free-kick expertise, ranking joint-5th in all-time direct free-kick goals alongside Lionel Messi as of September 2023. Some pundits consider him among the greatest wide midfielders, excelling on the right with passing, vision, and bending free-kicks, compensating for his lack of pace.

While primarily a right-winger, he played as a central midfielder and occasionally as a deep-lying playmaker later in his career. Beckham’s versatility extended to roles like wing-back. Apart from his technical skills, he was praised for stamina, defensive work-rate, long-range shooting, penalty-taking, ball control, and spatial awareness.

In his approach to training, Beckham’s relentless practice, especially in free-kicks, was highlighted by former manager Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. This commitment continued at Real Madrid, where even during strained times, he earned praise for professionalism.

Teammates and managers commended his intelligence, work-rate, and improvements in Milan, acknowledging his adaptability as pace declined. Former England manager Steve McClaren emphasized Beckham’s leadership, hard work, and inspiration to teammates.

Beckham’s discipline was scrutinized earlier in his career due to his temper, rash challenges, and red cards. Notably, he holds records for the first England player with two red cards and the first England captain sent off.

Despite occasional disciplinary issues, Beckham’s dedication, humility, and passion for the game left a lasting impression on managers and teammates alike.

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