From an early age, David Robert Joseph Beckham wanted to be a football1 player, and not just any football player. He wanted to play for Manchester United, and become a leading name in the sport. By the age of 28, he'd become one of the most well-known names around the world, worn the coveted number seven shirt in the most successful United team ever, captained the England team in a World Cup, and signed a multi-million pound deal with another major name in football, Real Madrid. Objective well and truly achieved.
The Early Years
David was born on 2 May 1975 in Leytonstone, London, to parents Ted and Sandra, and soon the family moved to Chingford. Encouraged by his parents – his father Ted was also a United suporter – David set about earning his place in footballing history. In 1986, when he was just 11, David became skills champion for his age group at the Bobby Charlton Soccer Schools. This gave him the chance to attend a two-week trip during which he would train with Barcelona at the Nou Camp, with the words of Bobby Charlton ringing in his ears: David was the best 11-year-old he had seen in his six years of the school.
Soon after this David was spotted by a scout while playing for Waltham Forest under-12s and was given a trial at Manchester United. He would travel up to Old Trafford for week-long trials, and David was, on more than one occasion, invited to meet the manager and the players. He would spend all of his spare time down in Manchester watching training sessions, eager to get involved. In the end David had to make a choice between the local team, Tottenham Hotspur, or Manchester United. For David, there was no contest, and his parents would back him whatever decision he made. At the age of 16, David Beckham left home and signed with Manchester United as a trainee on 8 July 1991.
Success at United came quickly, as he won the FA Youth Cup in 1992 with a team that included Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, and Paul Scholes. David made an impact and this led to his senior team debut on 23 September 1992. This was as a sub for Andrei Kanchelskis in a League Cup match against Brighton and Hove Albion. David then signed as a professional on 23 January 1993, followed by his first full appearance in September 1994 against Port Vale, again in the League Cup. This was followed two months later by his first goal for United against Galatasaray in the Champions League.
When David was 19, Alex Ferguson, reasoning that David was a later developer, sent him on loan to Preston North End to gain first team experience. David made a great impression after scoring in his debut against Doncaster. However, he was called back to Manchester after just five games as United were short of players for their next match against Leeds. He scored his first Premiership goal against Aston Villa in the first game of the 1995/1996 season, a match in which the United team were out to prove themselves after a lot of changes to the team. They were beaten that day and Alan Hansen stated, 'You can't win anything with kids.' Still, United had faith in their abilities, and Beckham and the United team were to prove him very wrong. During that season, Beckham scored eight goals and United went on to win the Premiership and FA Cup double. David was firmly established on the first team.
David became a household name in the following season after scoring his famous goal against Wimbledon at Selhurst Park from the half-way line. From then on, David was one of Manchester United's most loved players by fans all over the world, playing 311 games, scoring 74 goals, and winning 11 medals.
Beckham in England
After winning England caps at under-21 and youth level, on 1 September 1996, Beckham earned his first senior cap for England against Moldova. Glenn Hoddle made the brave move of putting such a young player in the starting line up, which paid off as England won 3-0.
David then went on to become the only player to make the starting line-up in every qualifying game for France '98; however, this competition would finish in chaos for David. Left out of the first two games of the tournament, he set out to prove himself in the third match, against Columbia, scoring one of his now famous free-kicks. In the next game, against Argentina, David faced the first sending-off of his professional career. David was tackled from behind by the Argentinean midfielder, Diego Simeone. Retaliating, Beckham kicked out at Simeone. Almost the entire country blamed David for England being knocked out of the World Cup that year and so he faced abuse and criticism wherever he went, but, over time, using his footballing abilities, he won back the crowd and gained support.
Support for David did again rise, and his confidence and ability on the pitch grew, leading the new England manager, Sven Goren Eriksson, to hand David the captain's armband in 2001. In this role he succeeded in taking the England team into the finals of the World Cup 2002 in Japan and Korea, but he broke his foot in a champions league match. The whole country willed the injury to heal, and heal it did, leaving Beckham to lead England all the way to the quarter-finals, where they were beaten by eventual champions, Brazil. One of David's best performances as England's captain was ensuring qualification for the World Cup '02. England only managed to draw in this match, but as the other players looked woeful on the pitch, Beckham played amazingly. Chasing every ball, and leading by example, he saved the team by curling the ball into the net from a late free-kick to secure a point, and a place in the Cup finals.
On 4 July 1999, David married former Spice Girl Victoria 'Posh' Adams and enjoyed a honeymoon in the South of France. The couple claim that it was love at first sight, and David knew that she would be the woman he would marry. He proposed on 24 January 1998, after they had been going out for six months. The couple have been through a lot together, mainly the public backlash against David after the World Cup in 1998.
Their first son, Brooklyn Joseph Beckham, was born on 4 March 1998, and he has already shown that he may have inherited his dad's footballing skills after he passed a three-day course at the Bobby Charlton Soccer School when aged only four. Brooklyn's younger brother Romeo James Beckham was born on 1 September 2003.
David Beckham is a family man, which unfortunately may have contributed to his departure from Old Trafford. Despite publicly denying the rumours, Alex Ferguson was said to have disapproved of David missing out on training sessions to be with his family. This reported rift between Beckham and his manager was supposedly started in February 2000 when David missed out on a training session because he was looking after Brooklyn, who had a cold. The row was denied, but David was left out of a crucial match against Leeds a few days later.
Like most football stars, David is never far from the back pages of our newspapers... but he's never away from the front of them for long either. David and Victoria, or Posh and Becks, were the celebrity couple at the beginning of the new millennium, and there was always some news story being written about them. Their wedding was a high-profile event held in a castle near Dublin, Ireland. About 500 people were flown in for the special occasion, and their guest list included Sir Elton John, David's Manchester United teammates, and Victoria's fellow Spice Girls.
People were interested in the Beckhams, and so it was difficult for them to stay out of the limelight. David's flair for fashion and individualism fuelled some of this interest. A new hairstyle, a new outfit - and there have been plenty of both - and Beckham was front page news. The hair has been shaved off, cut into a mohawk, been left long and wild, and carefully braided into plaits - each time Beckham made the front pages. Similarly, David's infamous sarong dominated the press after its appearance. His influence has led to many sponsorship deals, and also Beckham's own line of Marks and Spencers clothes for boys.
At Manchester United, David earned an estimated £10 million a year, and anyone with this kind of money is going to splash out. Adorned with tattoos depicting a guardian angel overlooking his son's names, and Victoria's name in Hindi on his arm (even if reports are true, and it is spelt wrongly), a collection of cars, including a £166,000 Bentley Arnage with a 6.75-litre V8 engine and leather baby-seats, and a £2.5m home dubbed 'Beckingham Palace' in Hertfordshire: It's easy to see what he enjoyed spending his money on.
The Next Chapter
In July 2003, David Beckham signed a £25m deal with Real Madrid ending his time playing on the team of his childhood heroes, Manchester United. So a new chapter starts, and everyone waits for the next haircut, fashion statement, and footballing milestones to add to the Beckham story.
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