David Beckham: Good, but Not That Good

Ian ThomsonCorrespondent IFebruary 10, 2009

On Monday’s Fox Football Fone-In show in the US, regular Milan-based guest Hyder Jawad gave a refreshing take on David Beckham’s tenure in Serie A by describing it as no more than ordinary.

Having watched Beckham’s six games in their entirety rather than relying on the viewpoints peddled by the Associated Press, I am in full agreement.

Beckham has surprised everyone, himself included, with his form since debuting on Jan. 11. He has slotted comfortably into the Rossoneri’s star-studded lineup despite the obvious problems for foreign players arriving in a new country, like adapting to a new environment and overcoming the language barrier.

While most observers envisaged the on-loan Los Angeles Galaxy man being little more than a bit-part player during his three-month stay, a window of opportunity opened when Gennaro Gattuso tore a cruciate ligament last December.

Ancelotti entrusted Beckham with a starting berth at Roma, but the formidable Brazilian duo of Kaká and Alexandre Pato stole the show, the latter scoring twice in a 2-2 draw. Beckham performed conservatively by keeping his passes short, simple, and unspectacular.

The pattern has continued. Beckham’s play remains cautious, dictated by a fear of conceding possession. The majority of his passes remain routine, shifting possession inside to Andrea Pirlo or wide to the rampaging right-back Gianluca Zambrotta.

Genoa goalkeeper Rubinho was caught out by a wily free-kick in the 1-1 draw on Jan. 28, but his set pieces and deliveries from wide areas have largely been disappointing. Pato and Kaká have many outstanding qualities, but rising above central defenders to attack crosses is not one of them.

The Genoa game came three days after Beckham notched his first goal, having been given the freedom of Emilia-Romagna to top off a 4-1 win against a bedraggled 10-man Bologna. It marked his best performance to date, although he wilted in the final 30 minutes as the Grifone pressed for a deserved equaliser.

Beckham’s army of sycophants turned up the volume after his two “assists” in the 3-0 win at Lazio on Feb. 1.

The first pass for Pato, a square ball across the penalty box after both players had been left in acres of space by Lazio’s faltering off-side trap, would have been made by any player in the Milan squad. The second, a routine set play hoisted towards the back post, owed everything to the tenacity of Massimo Ambrosini, as the Italian midfielder evaded his marker to power a header beyond Fernando Muslera.

Otherwise, it was another inconspicuous afternoon for the Englishman.

Overall, Beckham has done okay. He certainly has not looked out of place, nor has he resembled the second coming of Maradona circa 1986 as some would have you believe.

For all the plaudits being showered upon him, he has performed no better than fellow midfielders Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf, or the scandalously underrated vice-captain Ambrosini.

On the Plus Side...

Should Milan and Beckham, as seems increasingly likely, obtain their wish in prying the player out of his five-year contract with Major League Soccer:

1) MLS fans will no longer have to stomach the insipid, lifeless performances served up on a weekly basis by a patronising and plainly-uninterested $50 million-a-year man.

2) The millions who brazenly champion England’s “best league in the world” might take a greater interest in Serie A, discovering in the process that Calcio offers infinitely greater aesthetic talent than the dire fare served up on a weekly basis by the likes of Bolton, Blackburn, Middlesbrough, and Stoke.


This article first appeared on www.hawksport.com.