Remembering Beckham: Capturing a generation, a Ballon d'Or battle, an immeasurable right foot and Adidas Predators

Beckamania and the capture of an entire generation

David Beckham called it quits on his footballing career seven years ago today. The suave looking Londoner, adopted by the Mancs, finished his days in the professional game by winning the Ligue 1 title with Paris Saint-Germain.

Beckham played 14 times for the French giants before calling it a day. The famous images of PSG players bowing as he left the pitch, the tears from Becks himself as he tried to jog around but clearly lacked match fitness, the chants from the Parc des Princes and more. It'll forever be remembered as one of football's most famous departing moments.

One more flick of his effortlessly perfect hair after Ezequiel Lavezzi jumbled it up for him, before hugging Carlo Ancelotti in his last ever act on the pitch, just as his tears flowed onto the French grass. It was a truly sad moment for any football fan growing up in the 2000s.

Soon after, Beckham would lift the Ligue 1 title, becoming the first-ever Englishman to win four championships in four different countries, and of course, he donned the St. George's flag like a cape, lifting the title like the English hero he always was.

In truth, no footballer in the modern era has transformed the beautiful game and captured a generation like he did. Forget the Total 90 era, the old-school Pepsi ads, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, it was Beckham who was the man who took over the walls of the late 90s kids, and forced us all to stare endlessly into the mirror to perfect our horrific mohawks.

After that goal against Wimbledon, the 21-year-old became a superstar and his Tom Cruise-esque locks and charming stature quickly took over the world, and, his footballing greatness wasn't too far behind his immeasurable fame, either.

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An England Legend

For over a decade, Beckham became the most capped England outfield player until Wayne Rooney surpassed his 115 caps, with his now 120 caps. The Englishman led England out more than 40 times and his unrivalled patriotism to wear the red and white was never questioned.

Whilst his antics against Argentina at World Cup '98 threw him into the wrong most wanted category, Beckham's goal against Greece to help England qualify erased all memory of that infamous red card.

A wonderous free kick at Old Trafford in stoppage time sent England to the World Cup, and soon after, the streets were once again flooded with 'Beckham 7', as the mohawk cuts at barbers and Adidas Predator sales skyrocketed.

At the World Cup 2002, the England captain would further redeem himself with a thunderous penalty against Argentina, just four years after his hiccup in '98. The penalty, in truth, was dreadful in execution, but poetic in imagery; Beckham ignored all his usual finesse and smashed the ball home, seemingly fueled from years and years of hurt.

The first thing he did was celebrate by grabbing his red England shirt and kissing it with pure emotion towards the travelling fans - nobody did it like Beckham did and he is a true England hero for all of this and more. Boys and girls who are now in their 20s will remember their love for the England captain and never, ever question his patriotic nature towards his country.

115 caps, 17 goals, millions of memories. A true legend of English football and perhaps one of the country's most underappreciated talents.

The Glory Days and THAT wondrous right foot

If it wasn't for an inch-perfect kick from Sir Alex Ferguson to the skull of Beckham, perhaps the great Englishman would have spent most of his career, if not all of it, at Old Trafford.

Following an FA Cup defeat to Arsenal in February 2003, Ferguson launched a boot across the changing room, only for it to strike Beckham during a period of an already heated relationship between the two. Soon after, bookmakers would offer odds on who would leave the club first between the two, and months of speculation would follow.

However, such a torrid end to his time with United has certainly made most of us forget just how magical his glory days were with the club. Indeed, carrying on the flame of the number seven shirt left by Eric Cantona, was no easy feat, but it was one that Beckham did to a tee, putting his own twist (or twisting pass, if you like) on it.

What he lacked in physical attributes from his colleague on the left, Ryan Giggs, he made up for with exquisite precision and an inspiring work rate. Beckham didn't need to beat four or five men with his feet like the Welshman did, instead, he'd happily take out the entire team and drop the ball perfectly onto the head of Dwight Yorke or Andy Cole.

Ferguson once labelled Beckham "Britain's finest striker of a ball," but wasn't he more than that? The Scot was never shy of not giving the players the credit they deserved, after all. In truth, the winger's crossing ability is arguably the best there ever has been, registering more than 200 assists during his playing days through jaw-dropping curling efforts.

That indescribable cross to Ronaldo for Real Madrid, the endless list of whips down the Old Trafford right throughout the years, the two corners in the '99 Champions League final - it was all magical.

Then there were the free kicks that helped United to win 11 major trophies in his 13-year stint with the first-team. Manchester City, Liverpool, Barcelona, Real Madrid, were all on the receiving end of his breathtaking, unique ability to curl in a wondrous set piece, even scoring one on his final match with the Red Devils, whipping one at the far post at Goodison Park.

Beckham's bending run to the ball from a free kick will go down in football folklore. The stature of the Englishman behind the ball will be displayed in coaching sessions, museums and man caves of the 90s kids until the end of time.

His hard-working nature and wizardry from that right foot would earn Beckham a runners-up spot for the FIFA Ballon d'Or in 1999, only just losing out to Rivaldo of Barcelona by a few votes. In truth, the number seven was arguably the best player for United during their Treble-winning campaign and his fabulous creativity and unrivalled work rate was all but priceless at the time.

Forget the aftershave, the fame, the underwear shoots, meeting Nelson Mandela with cornrows, all of it - this was Beckham. And this was one of English football's greatest at the peak of his powers.

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Becoming a Galatico and beyond

As mentioned, perhaps Beckham could have played at Old Trafford for many more years, but an egotistical battle fueled from the idea of 'nobody is bigger than the club', ended his reign on the United flanks.

However, Becks would join the ranks of the most elite at Real Madrid and become a part of the famous Galactico era. Whilst a La Liga title was the only major trophy the ex-United star acquired, four more years of breathtaking free kicks and magical deliveries into Ronaldo and Raul down the right would come in Spain.

Beckham would, for the first time in close to a decade, take a shirt that wasn't his famous number seven. At the unveiling, Real Madrid legend Alfred Di Stefano handed the then England captain the number 23 jersey, with the right-footed winger citing his admiration for Michael Jordan as his decision to have that number. This perhaps was planting the seed for the American Dream a little sooner than we thought.

In truth, as much as Beckham's years at the Bernabeu were a shadow of his time in Manchester, his ability was rarely questioned and Madrid's failure with such a glamourous dream team was more or less down to a lack of team capabilities, rather than individual inabilities. The former United man would, after all, still bag 15 assists in his first campaign and net 20 goals across four seasons.

Sadly for football fans of Europe and the England national team, Beckham would call it a day in Europe in 2007 to follow his American fame. Whilst his name would reach new heights (and lights), his footballing catalogue would reach new lows.

Winning the MLS Cup and playing alongside Greg Vanney should not have been within the aims for such a phenomenal talent who clearly still had the capabilities to take over the right-hand side of Europe's biggest clubs.

Yes, Beckham's highlight reel with LA Galaxy was nothing short of sublime. But you can't help but feel he missed out on more top-flight titles with a heavyweight of European football. Nevertheless, this is a man who captured an entire generation like never before and is perhaps one of football's most underappreciated talents because of his immeasurable fame.

Like I said, forget the Calvin Klein shouts, the presidential reign of Inter Miami CF, remember Beckham for his astounding ability with his famous right foot in those Adidas Predators.


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