The England star’s years of hard work were sadly ruined by an achilles tendon injury last week.
Beckham had made no secret of his desire to play in another World Cup for England in South Africa this summer, and he had worked tremendously hard to keep his spot in one of the most highly-contested squads in world football.
Even at 35, and being one of the richest, and definitely most popular sportsmen in the world, Beckham has barely had a break over the last two years.
He would play a full season with the LA Galaxy, and while everyone had their vacations, he’d be scrapping for AC Milan at the business end of the Italian league season, and then head straight back to preparing for the Galaxy’s pre-season. And all this in spite of him having run himself to the ground during the last World Cup in 2006, where he was seen throwing up due to heat exhaustion.
But sadly, an achilles tendon injury has shattered his dreams of making another appearance at sport’s greatest tournament. The injury occured without any contact. He limped to the side of the field, before being stretchered off in tears and with his head in his hands.
Still doing the business
Just last week, he had shown glimpses of the magnificent asset he could still be to England’s World Cup hopes.
Coming on as a substitute for AC Milan during their Champions League game with his boyhood club Manchester United, Beckham delivered an understated yet telling performance. Ronaldinho had been bustling with his usual trickery without much success against United’s well-marshalled defence, but Beckham had sliced them open with a thundering volley, a magnificent through ball and a couple of trademark dangerous crosses in less than 30 minutes on the pitch.
His volley demonstrated the technique and calmness he could bring to any side, playing at any level of football, at any stage of the game. The through ball set up a cross from an open position inside the penalty area, which Filipo Inzaghi only just failed to connect with.
But it was his crossing that still looked the most likely to gift Milan a consolation goal. One in particular, curled with trademark precision around the back four and into the six-yard box with Inzaghi again the target, should have been finished, but Inzaghi was left to clutch his head against the netting bewildered at how he had contrived to send his finish wide.
Beckham has widely been considered to be over-rated because of his less than fancy playing style, but he wasn’t Sir Alex Ferguson’s favourite son for nothing during his time at United.
He played with the stamina of Park Ji Sung, had the passing ability of Andrea Pirlo, the set-piece wizardry of Juninho and an uncanny ability to be at the right place at the right time to score crucial goals.
He was a potent force on the right wing for United, covering astutely for Gary Neville in defence, making runs forward with the enthusiasm of Wayne Rooney whenever United had the ball, and invariably providing a quality killer pass/cross in the final third to punish defences. It added a unique dimension to United’s game that for years, opponents simply had no answer to.
And what the United fans loved so much about him, was that the way he played was something like how the fans would imagine themselves playing if they had the chance to put on the club colours. Even though he was already a global superstar that transcended football, he would still run himself to the ground, throw himself at everything and put his body on the line every week for United’s cause.
Without a doubt, he wouldn’t, and shouldn’t, have been in Fabio Capello’s starting XI at the World Cup. But that match against United showed that even now, you can always count on him to not only do his best, but produce the goods whenever he’s called upon.