He may have had good looks and a Spice Girl on his arm, but David Beckham was also a very good footballer—something he reminded us of time and again when he found the back of the net.
Although the Beckham free-kick became something of a trademark, the former England captain had a knack for scoring meaningful goals at meaningful times, both for his country and at club level, where he tallied for Manchester United, Preston North End, Real Madrid, Los Angeles Galaxy and AC Milan.
Following are five of his most iconic strikes and, appropriately, four of them are set pieces.
The North American chapter of David Beckham’s career didn’t get off to the best of starts.
Following his unveiling in front of more than 700 accredited media on July 13, 2007, a string of injuries kept him on the periphery of the Los Angeles Galaxy squad.
But on August 15 in a SuperLiga semifinal against D.C. United, Beckham opened the scoring with a free-kick as Galaxy went on to win, 2-0—Beckham provided an assist on the second goal (scored by Landon Donovan) as well.
Beckham had made his England debut in September 1996, but it wasn’t until the 1998 World Cup final that he found the back of the net for his country.
And, as was so often the case over the course of his career, his goal proved crucial.
With the Three Lions needing a result from their final Group Stage match against Colombia, Darren Anderton put Glenn Hoddle’s side ahead in the 20th minute, and nine minutes later, Beckham added a measure of insurance when his curling free-kick from 30 yards beat Faryd Mondragon inside his top-right corner.
With England embroiled in a physical encounter with Ecuador in the Round of 16, Beckham stepped up to take a free-kick from all of 30 yards just prior to the hour mark.
His effort dipped low and just inside the near post, leaving goalkeeper Cristian Mora with no chance.
The goal put England into a second successive World Cup quarterfinal and also made Beckham the first English player to have scored in three different World Cup tournaments.
Beckham scored perhaps his most spectacular goal on the opening day of the 1996-97 Premier League season.
With Wimbledon’s Efan Ekoku having been stripped of possession slightly inside the Manchester United half, the ball fell to Beckham and the then-21-year-old, having spotted Dons goalkeeper Neil Sullivan off his line, unleashed an audacious strike from the halfway line that found its way into the back of the net.
Beckham scored 12 goals that season—the second most he would ever score over the course of a campaign—and was named PFA Young Player of the Year.
With England needing a result against Greece to guarantee their progression to the 2002 World Cup, Teddy Sheringham was fouled 26 yards from the Greek goal and Beckham stepped up to do the honours.
Perhaps appropriately, the match was being played at Old Trafford, and his Manchester United home would serve as the setting of his long-awaited vindication for his 1998 ejection against Argentina.
His effort found the far corner of the net, and England qualified for the World Cup. And Beckham was back in the fans’ good books.