Beckham in demand after dip in popularity |

Beckham in demand after dip in popularity

Robert Millward
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado
Armando Franca/AP PhotoReal Madrid's David Beckham celebrates with supporters at the end of their Spanish league soccer match with Zaragoza Saturday.

LONDON – Back in January, it seemed no one wanted David Beckham except the Los Angeles Galaxy.

He hadn’t played for England since the World Cup after being dropped by coach Steve McClaren. His club, Real Madrid, had no use for him, either, because of his planned move to Major League Soccer. Beckham was training on his own because coach Fabio Capello thought he no longer had the motivation to play for Real.

That was then.

Five months later, everyone’s clamoring for Beckham.

The Galaxy can’t wait for him to show up and play in the MLS. Madrid doesn’t want him to leave.

Beckham is back in the England lineup and setting up goals for his teammates as they chase a place in next year’s European Championship. Capello’s team is on the verge of winning the Spanish league title thanks to Beckham’s standout performances.

There’s even speculation Beckham could be knighted. That would mean that the former England captain, who has played 96 times for his country, would become “Sir David Beckham.” His wife, Victoria, would become “Lady Beckham.”

While that is a long shot, there’s no doubt Beckham has proved his critics wrong, Capello and McClaren especially.

“The truth is with him we were all wrong,” Capello said Monday, with his team one victory away from a record 30th Spanish league title.

McClaren, however, believes his decision to leave Beckham out was the right one and it may even have been the catalyst to his return to form.

“David has reacted exactly the way I thought he would, exactly the way I said he would when I made the decision to leave him out,” the England coach said. “His last performances have been excellent and he has brought a lot to the team. But I wouldn’t change the decision I made in August. It was correct at the time.”

The turnaround in Beckham’s fortunes is remarkable even by his own standards.

Five months ago, it appeared his career in Europe was coming to a sorry end, even though he had a big money deal to look forward to in the United States ” with an opportunity to spread soccer to a wider audience in a country dominated by football, baseball and basketball.

Now that Capello and McClaren have changed their minds about starting Beckham, there is a growing campaign to keep him in Europe at least for one more season.

Some English clubs have hinted they may try to persuade the Galaxy to allow him out on a loan deal, while Madrid president Ramon Calderon said he will implore Beckham to stay. Calderon even insisted there was a clause in the Galaxy deal which would allow Beckham to pull out of the move, although that’s been denied by those handling the player’s side of the contract.

They say Beckham is definitely going to the Galaxy next month. The MLS club will want to get value for the money they are paying to get him.

If his good form continues, Beckham will play at least six more matches for England between August and November. That will mean being away for up to six MLS games, having already missed the first half of the season.

Galaxy president and general manager Alexi Lalas says that’s not a problem. “We’ll even drive him to the airport,” he said.

Right now, Beckham is hoping an ankle injury he picked up playing for England in last week’s 3-0 Euro 2008 qualifying victory over Estonia won’t keep him out of Madrid’s final game of the season at home against Mallorca on Sunday.

A victory will mean Beckham will finish his four-year spell at Madrid with his first title.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got the greatest talent or the lowest talent, everybody responds to a shock. You come across adversity and it brings something out of you,” McClaren said.

“I don’t know why it changed when it did. All I know is that once again we are seeing Beckham the player everyone knows and everyone talks about.”

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