David Beckham’s drawing power remains strong, but England’s national team no longer needs him

By Stuart Condie, AP
Thursday, August 12, 2010

Beckham no longer wanted by national team coach

LONDON — The world’s most sought-after soccer player is no longer wanted by his national team coach.

David Beckham’s celebrity status, endorsement potential and good looks have often overshadowed his huge contribution to the England national team, but coach Fabio Capello said the 35-year-old Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder will no longer be picked because he is too old.

On Thursday, the volatile British media lashed out at Capello while British Prime Minister David Cameron praised the iconic Beckham.

“We will all remember some of those great free kicks, some of those great moments that he’s been responsible for,” Cameron said. “I’m sure lots of people will be sad that he’s not going to be playing for England again.”

Beckham made his England debut in 1996 and has played 115 times for his country, including in three World Cups. He sat out the World Cup in South Africa because of Achilles’ tendon surgery.

Last week, AC Milan announced that it would not be taking Beckham on loan again because of his age.

But the remarks from Capello may sting more because the Italian made his comments on television rather than telling Beckham. That seems to be what really got the local press upset, with The Daily Mirror calling Capello “Dumb And Dumber” and The Telegraph describing it as “Another Fine Mess.”

Former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson was regularly criticized for supposedly being enamored by Beckham’s celebrity, but the media is attacking Capello for not making Beckham a special case.

Capello did offer Beckham the prospect of a farewell appearance in an exhibition match — possibly in November against France — but Thursday’s papers were still filled with fury against a coach already under fire for a second-round exit from this year’s World Cup.

“Blundering England manager Fabio Capello’s battered reputation sank even further,” the Daily Express wrote.

“Fabio has learned nothing from World Cup fiasco,” The Daily Mirror said.

Beckham is second only to goalkeeper Peter Shilton on England’s all-time appearance list. While he never won the international honors to put him alongside the likes of Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton in the pantheon of true England greats, he arguably contributed more to the national side over the past 14 years than any other player.

Still, Beckham is well acquainted with the highs and lows of international soccer. He was blamed for England’s elimination from the 1998 World Cup for his petulant red card against Argentina, but scored the winning goal against the same team at the World Cup four years later.

He responded to jeering at the 2000 European Championship with an obscene hand gesture to England fans, but was lauded by the same supporters little more than a year later when his last-minute free kick against Greece secured a place at the 2002 World Cup.

The latest revelation already has some speculating that this may not be the end of Beckham’s international career, especially if Capello’s time in charge ends soon.

Capello dropped Beckham in January 2007 when both were at Real Madrid after the midfielder announced that he would be leaving for Major League Soccer. But Beckham won over his coach with his attitude in training and made a scoring comeback a month later.

Also, England dropped Beckham in August 2006 in an effort to renew the team with younger players after a quarterfinal exit at that year’s World Cup. Coach Steve McClaren recalled him the following year after a run of stuttering form, and he returned for the remainder of England’s unsuccessful attempt to qualify for the 2008 European Championship.

“Look at the way he has adapted going into different cultures and different football clubs and the way he won over the Real Madrid fans and then went to MLS and then Italy with AC Milan,” Wigan manager Roberto Martinez said. “He has been an amazing example, and I don’t think he is getting the right credit yet.

“When he retires, people will realize the footballer he was behind the brand of David Beckham.”

Beckham, who has played mostly as a substitute during the past two years, has said he is not retiring from international soccer and will play if selected.

“I still wouldn’t write him off yet and I wish him well,” said Sunderland manager Steve Bruce, who was at Manchester United during the first five years of Beckham’s career. “He’s a decent lad and he’s always been absolutely 100 percent dedicated to football.

“Once he gets himself fit again, you never know because he’s a resilient so and so.”

Bruce said that the whole furor may simply come down to Capello’s struggle to master the English language. British papers have regularly highlighted the Italian’s inability to speak English fluently after two years in the country.

“Sometimes if we’re looking at Fabio Capello, I think it’s a communication problem and I think we witnessed that last night,” Bruce said. “It is difficult, it would be like us going to Italy. There’s a whole different culture and we have to respect that.

“I believe it’s the language barrier more than anything. As soon as I heard it last night, I thought, well is that the end for David? Whether he meant that, I don’t know.”

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