David Beckham may have celebrated his 40th Birthday last weekend but the former England and Manchester United player still remains an iconic name in world football.
The midfielder played for illustrious clubs such as Manchester United, Real Madrid and AC Milan during playing career.
Beckham was mainly known for his outstanding set-piece abilities however, which even resulted in a movie being named in his honour (Bend it Like Beckham). The Englishman scored 62 goals (15 free-kicks) and created 80 assists in 265 Premier League appearances for Manchester United while he also won six top flight titles, two FA Cups and a Champions League title with his boyhood club.
Let’s take a look at some of his best moments in the Premier League.
The midfielder signed for Manchester United as a trainee on the 8th of July 1991 and became part of the successful Manchester United youth side, now known as the ‘Class of ’92’. Beckham went on loan to Preston North End to gain experience in the 1994/95 season but returned to United to make his debut against Leeds on April 2nd 1995.
Alex Ferguson put a lot of faith in youth players in the 1995/96 season and this led to Beckham making 33 appearances as well as scoring seven times in a season where United lifted the Premier League title and FA Cup.
It was at the beginning of the 1996/97 season when Beckham really became a household name, as he scored a spectacular goal against Wimbledon on the 17th of August 1996. The right-sided midfielder noticed that the Dons’ goalkeeper Neil Sullivan was standing a long way out of his goal and attempted a shot from the halfway line, which floated over the goalkeeper and into the net.
Beckham later stated that this was the goal that completely changed his life and in 2002 the British public voted the goal No. 18 in a list of the ‘100 Greatest Sporting Moments.’ This kind of start to the season led to Beckham making 36 appearances and scoring eight times, as United lifted the title once again.
On the 18th of May 1997, Eric Cantona retired from football and left the coveted number 7 shirt free, which would eventually become the number that Beckham would forever be associated with.
The England international scored nine times in 37 appearances in the 1997/98 season but inconsistency led to United losing out on the title to Arsenal. That season was soon forgotten though as United and Beckham had a sensational campaign in 1998/99 as they won the treble.
Despite these achievements, there were still many United fans that doubted Beckham’s worth to their team and thought selling him would be a better option. This led to transfer speculation regarding a move to Juventus but the Englishman decided to stay.
Beckham did prove himself as a worthy starter in the 1999/00 season as he played a huge role in helping United retain the Premier League title. The midfielder scored six times, including five goals in United’s last few games, which helped them win the league by an 18-point margin.
As Beckham’s time at United progressed it seemed inevitable that he would eventually leave the club as his relationship with Alex Ferguson began to deteriorate. Ferguson later explained the tension stemmed from Beckham caring more about the entertainment world than his football career in the early 2000s, stating,
“He is such a big celebrity, football is only a small part.”
This tension didn’t stop Beckham playing a key role for United the next season, scoring nine goals in 31 appearances in a campaign where United again won the Premier League, which was also the first time any side had won three consecutive Premier League titles.
The midfielder also had a great start for United in the 2001/02 season as he scored eleven times in 28 appearances but this was just before disaster struck. On the 10th of April 2002, Beckham was injured during a Champions League match against Deportivo La Coruña and he broke the second metatarsal bone in his left foot, which kept him out for the rest of the Premier League season.
Despite constant transfer rumours, he signed a three-year contract with United in May 2002. This deal made him the highest-paid player in the world at the time.
The 2002/03 saw United lift another Premier League title with Beckham scoring six goals in 31 league appearances. The 02/03 season was probably Beckham’s least enjoyable as a United player, on a personal level, as the tension with Ferguson hit a climax on the 15th of February 2003.
Following an FA Cup defeat to Arsenal, a furious Ferguson flung a boot that struck Beckham over the eye, causing a cut that required stitches. This led to a media frenzy and it began to become obvious that this was going to be Beckham’s last season at Old Trafford.
Real Madrid signed Beckham in the summer of 2003 for €35 million on a four-year contract as the latest of the Galáctico signings by club president Florentino Pérez.
The midfielder stayed in Madrid for four years before moving to LA Galaxy in 2007 while he also had loan spells at AC Milan in 2009 & 2010.
Beckham played his last games with PSG in 2013.
The tearful final few moments of his footballing career can be viewed below.
Sarah Fitzpatrick, Pundit Arena.
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