Photo: Paul Blank
Beckham had the right idea: work like hell to make the England team; be a part of a winning World Cup squad; bow out with every major honour on offer in the game. Great sportsmen should leave everybody wanting more; retire at the top; ensure the mystique of genius by affording nobody the opportunity of seeing the decline. But now that this master plan has been denied him, what is left but a downward spiral of third-rate games for a third-rate team in a third-rate league? I, for one, do not want to watch that. There is a more graceful option, but it will take courage. The hero has had his day. David Beckham should retire from football.
There are things that we may want to gloss over in the life and career of David Beckham – the empty celebrity, the tattoos, the lack of pace, 1998 – but whatever your view on the man, there are three things beyond dispute: 1. On his day he was as good a footballer as anybody; 2. His work rate is greater than the majority of his peers; 3. He has become a fantastic ambassador for the game. In combination, these afford him lasting respect and opportunity. He can best put those to use by getting off the pitch. Beckham has already done an enormous amount for football – giving youth an opportunity, and giving the sport a fighting chance in America – but he can do so much more if he takes on a full time role as an ambassador for football, promoting the game and the best of its values. His name is known the world over. It is surely time to put it to best use. It’s time to quit for all the right reasons.