RoM has been on the receiving end of quite a bit of stick for some of the articles written about David Beckham. Not being badly inlove with him is often confused with hatred, apparently, but let me assure you that isn’t the case.
Beckham was a great player for United and you could tell he really cared about the club. But as he worked his way towards being the most famous footballer in the world, something I’m sure he probably wasn’t expecting at the time, his priorities seemed to blur. Maybe it was his wife or maybe he was reacting the same way any one of us would if in his situation, but he changed and then he left.
The story painted was that Sir Alex Ferguson forced him out of the club, destroying Beckham, who had planned on spending his entire career at his boyhood club. This is a story lapped up by so many.
It’s hard to deny there was a falling out with the manager. Was this because he is a tyrant who can’t stand a bad attitude and a player acting like they’re bigger than the club? Well, if his dealings with Ronaldo and Rooney are anything to go by, who both exhibited a less than admirable attitude (Ronaldo repeatedly talking of only God knowing his future whilst he petulantly stropped around the field or Rooney behaving in abhorrent way off the pitch whilst trying to create a move to one of our biggest rivals behind our back), then it’s patently obvious that argument is nonsense. But whatever happened behind the scenes, something maybe someone will tell us about in an autobiography some day, there’s no way I buy that Beckham was pushed out.
“I’ve known Ferguson since I was 12 years old and we had one or two problems in that time,” Beckham said in October 2006. “Maybe he didn’t want me to leave.”
So, Ferguson forced Becks out of the club… whilst at the same time not wanting him to leave? It certainly suggests the decision was Beckham’s which then possibly caused the break down of the relationship between player and manager.
So, I don’t hate Beckham. I loved supporting him in 98-99 and I loved watching him play such a pivotal role to the best season in United’s history and best season in any English club’s history. But I do hate the image he presents of himself and I am irritated by how readily fans accept it all.
He hasn’t always been a liar though. A month before he left United for Real Madrid, he said: “I’ve never said that I’d never move away from Manchester, and I’ve never said that I’d end my career there.”
That’s fair enough. Why should any footballer expect to be loyal to any club? Roy Keane talks of players as being treated like pieces of meat and how they have to do what is best for them. To a certain extent, I agree. No, it’s not on swapping between rivals, but if Becks wanted a change of scenery and felt it would be good for his family, then that is entirely fair.
What’s not fair there though is to rewrite history and make out like his decision to leave United for Real Madrid was something that was forced on him.
“I’d have loved to have stayed at Manchester United for my whole career and never gone anywhere else,” Beckham said last January.
“When you are a Manchester United player and a Manchester United fan you never want to play for any other club,” he said in the February.
Finally, we have proof that Beckham was planning to leave United long before he left for Real Madrid. After news broke that he was leaving, the office staff at Carrington asked Gary Neville how he was taking it. He responded that he’d known for a while so had some time to get used to it. But did he know a whole year before? Because that’s when Becks made his decision.
Terry Byrne, Beckham’s mate and former manager, has lifted the lid on what happened, speaking with Sports Illustrated.
I had just appointed Ray Lewington as manager of Watford (2002), and David then called me and said, “Look, I’m going to split with SFX [his management group]. Would you consider you and your wife moving? I’m going to go to Real Madrid next summer and leave Manchester United. Would you come and live in Spain and just run my world?” I said, “OK, fine.” And I can say this with my hand on my heart, I never took a penny of commission out of David. Ever. I took the same salary I was on at Watford. I said, “Look, it’s not about money. I’ll help you for a period, get your life sorted back out and then there will be a time when I step away.”
I managed him for five years. Lived in Spain, loved it. Had the pleasure every day of going to the training ground and watching Zinédine Zidane, Ronaldo, Raúl, Roberto Carlos, Luis Figo. The dream team. Other than maybe Franco Zola, watching Zidane in training was the best part of my career. And just Real Madrid as a club, the stadium and the atmosphere and the way the city comes to a standstill when it plays, I loved it.
Then in David’s career, Steve McClaren became England manager. David was one of the Florentino Pérez signings, so with Real Madrid’s presidency changing, Ramón Calderón didn’t want to re-sign David. I had worked with [AEG head] Tim Leiweke building the [Beckham] academy in London, and Tim had made no secret of the fact he wanted David to come to the Galaxy. Tim worked for two years with me to bring David to the U.S. That combined with Simon Fuller’s program with managing Victoria and Simon’s commercial team doing David’s commercial work. As Simon’s role became more prominent in David’s management, from my point of view, my involvement in management wasn’t as necessary.
There came a point where the England players asked me to manage them. David wanted me to move to L.A., and my wife and I didn’t want to. Our baby had just been born, so I said to David, “Now is the right time for me to step away.” I didn’t want to cause him any conflict within the football world. I’m the football [adviser], the commercial world was 19 Entertainment. And rather than put David in a position of conflict, it was right for me to step away. So I chose at that point to extricate myself from it. I still speak to David regularly, and he’ll ask my advice on whatever. But the friendship comes first and will always come first before business.
Now, this entirely contradicts what Becks said in May 2006: “I never talked to Real Madrid until I actually got the phone call to say ‘the club want to sell you’. And that’s the first time I spoke to Madrid about that.”
And that comment contradicts what he said earlier about Ferguson not wanting to sell him. Did Manchester United choose to organise a deal to sell David Beckham to Real Madrid without Fergie’s blessing?
“It is totally out of the question, there is no way we would sell him,” Ferguson said in the April before Becks left, when the player was sat on the bench, being kept out of the team by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. “Why would I want to sell my best players?”
The media focus continued though, leading Beckham to bat his eyelids at the Spaniards. “Any player would be honoured to be spoken about by Real Madrid,” he said.
I’m sure there will be Beckham apologists who try to find a way out of this but here we have it, knowledge that Becks had been in talks with Real Madrid at least a year before he left us for them, before our Champions League game where he played out of his skin against them, putting himself in the shop window (assuming he hadn’t already agreed a deal) and certainly before Sir Alex kicked that boot at his head. Is Becks’ friend lying? What motivation does Bryne have to do that? It’s obvious that the focus of the story isn’t the fact Beckham was talking about leaving a year before he did, it’s just a bit part to the main story which is about his relationship with Beckham and how he ended up in Spain. Let’s use a bit of common sense and stop arguing black is white.
“Football is everything to me and joining Real Madrid is a dream come true,” Beckham said after joining the Spanish giants. Whilst now he might look back on his career and wish he had never left United, at the time he fancied himself a bit more, thought he was the big deal, and was more than happy to leave Manchester for Madrid.