David Beckham has announced his plans to retire from football at the end of the season at the age of 38.
The Englishman is undoubtedly the most famous footballer in the world – globally brand Beckham is a force to be reckoned with but it all began for the midfielder as a skinny 16-year-old in Manchester United’s youth team back n 1991.
What made David Beckham the household name he is – the heartthrob pin-up, the commercial force, and the ambassador of the sport? Was it his talent, his looks, his wife, his intelligence, his ambition, or his luck?
When ‘Becks’ broke into Sir Alex Ferguson’s first team at United back in 1995, few would have picked him out as a future superstar of world-conquest proportions. In fact, at the time his teammate Ryan Giggs was the poster boy but that was about to change.
His ability, especially as a dead-ball specialist is surely the first and foremost aspect that made the man more than just a football player.
Beckham’s hours upon hours spent as a boy practicing and training until he could make a 50-yard pass with his eyes closed so precise that one would have thought he had in-built ballistic missile technology is what first caught the attention – I remember his goal against Wimbledon, chipping the goalkeeper from the halfway line back on the opening day of the 1996/97 season when he was just 21 years old.
The kind of work-ethic instilled in the youngsters at United by Ferguson was the kind of commitment and determination that defined Beckham’s career – it’s well documented he suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder which makes him, in effect, a neurotic immaculate perfectionist.
Whilst his hard work and his talent were the raw ingredients, Beckham also had something other players did not – good looks. He is a handsome man and whoever first pointed this out to him is the person who transformed him from a professional athlete into a globalized brand.
That person may well have been Victoria Adams of the Spice Girls who, in 1997 was actually far more famous than her husband to be. They married in 1999, the year after the World Cup in which was sent off playing for England against Argentina. He was briefly the most vilified man in the country but he would become a national treasure.
The ‘it’ couple of their generation, the Beckhams would be mass-marketed across the globe in the next decade – the profits from the merchandise and products that his face and name have sold over the years must reach into the billions.
David Beckham is good for business, good for the economy, good for public relations, good for newspaper and magazine sales, good for just about any product you’re selling – slap his name on it and put his face on the ad campaign and you’re laughing all the way to the bank.
However, that’s not all down to his pretty face – he and his wife have been two of the most astute entrepreneurs of their generation – they saw the demand for them and they figured out how to capitalize on it.
They are brand Beckham, a product so suitable to mass consumption, they knew how to sell themselves and the world bought it. That takes intelligence and, more importantly, ambition to match his raw talent, good looks and hard work. Make no mistake; David Beckham made his own luck.
image: © arcane ramblings