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Rediff.com  » Sports » Beckham seeks more glory as milestone approaches

Beckham seeks more glory as milestone approaches

March 26, 2008 16:33 IST

David Beckham, already the world's most famous footballer, is expected to reach another career highlight on Wednesday by becoming only the fifth player to win 100 caps for England.

Beckham, who turns 33 in May, is back in Fabio Capello's England squad after missing the Italian's first match in charge against Switzerland last month.

Capello, Beckham's former club manager at Real Madrid, said he did not select him then because he was not fit enough -- a view Beckham agreed with.

Capello made it clear then he would not award Beckham a "sentimental" 100th game, and would pick him only on merit.

Not for the first time in his long career, Beckham has risen to a challenge and says that if he plays against France in Wednesday's friendly it will be one of the greatest moments in an already glittering career.

He also hopes that his 100th cap will not be his last. He believes he can do a valuable job for England for at least another two years, until the World Cup finals in South Africa in 2010 if England qualify, and he has no intention of quitting yet.

Beckham can still whip in a cross like a guided missile, he can still inspire his team mates when the going gets tough and, although he probably divides opinion among the public, he never ceases to be polite and charming when in the media's glare.

FREE KICKS

As he himself readily admits, he was never blessed with the greatest of pace, but, "give me five yards and I still think I can pass as well as I ever could".

He can also take free kicks which leave some of the best defenders and goalkeepers utterly bamboozled and although he has had his off-days, including two red cards for England, only an elite few have the special qualities needed to play 100 times for their country.

Beckham was singled out as being special when he won a schoolboy soccer skills tournament at the age of nine and came to the attention of Manchester United great Bobby Charlton.

Charlton, one of only four men who have played more than 100 times for England, knew he had unearthed a diamond.

Although he was born and grew up in London, the young Beckham was a United fan and signed as a trainee at his beloved Old Trafford shortly after his 16th birthday in July 1991.

As former United skipper Bryan Robson recalls: "Everywhere we went, Alex Ferguson used to let this little lad in to the dressing room to meet us. He told us then he was going to be something special and he wasn't wrong."

Beckham made his first-team debut for United as a substitute for Andrei Kanchelskis in a League Cup tie at Brighton on Sept. 23, 1992.

SPONSORSHIP DEALS

By the time he left United for Real Madrid in a 25-million-pound deal 11 years later he was already a millionaire many times over. He had helped United to win six Premier League titles and two FA Cups and in 1999 was a key member of the team that won the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup treble.

He was also the most recognisable and marketable footballer in the world with sponsorship and advertising deals worth millions. His good looks and his high-profile marriage to Spice Girls pop star Victoria Beckham turned the couple into showbusiness royalty.

Hardly out of the spotlight for more than a decade, he still comes across as a charming and down-to-earth devoted family man and father of three.

Like all top sportsmen, he never knows when he is beaten and admits to a stubborn streak that drives him on.

He responded to a red card in the 1998 World Cup by giving one strong performance after another as United won the treble the following year.

He responded to being dropped from the England squad by Steve McClaren after the 2006 World Cup finals with a series of fine performances for Real Madrid and he responded to being left out of the Real Madrid team by his current England boss Capello with some inspired performances when he got the chance to return.

He says living in the United States and playing for LA Galaxy is no hindrance to him continuing to play for England and he hopes that his 100th cap will not be his last.

There is every chance he will even emulate Bobby Charlton's haul of 106 appearances.

Mike Collett
Source:
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