Beckham has the last word: Former England skipper talks about retirement, United and his dream to own a clubScholes retired too early, I won’t do thatClubs flash cash but United have historyI want to own a team not manage one…
08:28 GMT, 1 December 2012
Standing in the midst of a group of reporters with his back against a wall at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles, David Beckham suddenly seems struck by his longevity as a footballer.
‘It’s amazing isn’t it’ he laughed. ‘Twenty years we’ve all been doing this. But I’m just thankful I’m still playing.
‘You guys are the same. You’re still reporting on games. You are probably thinking: “Oh sh*t, not again”. But this game never gets old for me. I never get tired of it.’
Still going strong: Beckham has made it clear that he wants to play on
At 37, Beckham still hasn’t changed much. From Manchester to Madrid to Los Angeles (with a pit stop in Milan), Beckham’s career has been more eclectic than anybody would have imagined, but it’s clear the fire has not yet gone out.
He will play in the MLS Cup Final for LA Galaxy against Houston at lunchtime local time today – his final game for the club – and then quickly turn his head to stare down the next challenge.
Despite the aches and pains of an ageing athlete, retirement isn’t an option. Not yet. Events across the pond at Old Trafford in the first month of this year convinced him of that. ‘I saw what happened with Scholesy,’ he said, referring to Paul Scholes’s decision to reverse his retirement.
‘I plan to keep playing as long as I can because I know when Scholesy stepped away he came back and regretted stopping.
Old friends: Beckham in his United days with Scholes (centre) and Giggs (left)
‘You know when it’s time and obviously Scholesy realised it wasn’t his time at that moment and I’m the same. It’s not my time. It’s nice to see him and Giggsy still playing at Man U. They’ve had successful careers there and to see them playing like they do now is great. We grew up together and, like them, I want to play as long as my legs will take me.’
Thursday was pretty much ‘Beckham day’ at Galaxy training. A conditioning session in the Californian drizzle at 10am and then media commitments ahead of his final game after six seasons in the States. After all this time, he remains the MLS’s biggest media draw. They will miss him.
Beckham wasn’t due to speak to English journalists but, as usual, he found the extra time.
Although his plans were off limits, he did admit that he harbours ambitions to play in the Champions League again. ‘I think that because I always loved it,’ he said. ‘I still miss playing in it; they are the games you love playing in.
Centre of attention: Beckham took the time out to speak to English journalists
‘We’ll see where I go next. If it’s a team that’s in the Champions League then it will be nice to be back. Wherever I’ve gone it’s been a big deal throughout my career. Whether it’s been going on loan to AC Milan or leaving Manchester United for Real Madrid or Real to here, it’s always been big news. This next move will be a move that is about the football. That has never been any different for me.
‘People say some of the moves have been about money but my answer is always the same, that my career has never been about money. I’m not money motivated, I just want to play for the best team and with the best players.’
It is remarkable to think it is almost a decade since Beckham left United.
‘I couldn’t have stayed, it wasn’t an option obviously,’ he said with a smile. Since that time, little has changed in England. United were top of the Premier League when he left and are top again ahead of this weekend’s games. ‘I’m not surprised by that, I don’t know why anybody is surprised by that,’ he said.
Up for the cup: Beckham will line up alongside Robbie Keane (right) for LA Galaxy for the last time
‘I’ve always said that money at football clubs is OK sometimes, but it doesn’t last forever. I think Manchester United are a club about history. Other clubs might have the money and might be able to pay players more but when Man United come calling it’s impossible to turn them down.
‘You see a player like Robin van Persie has spent the years he has at Arsenal but when Man United come knocking it’s impossible to say no. It doesn’t matter what other clubs are interested and what money is being thrown around.’
Beckham will one day take up an ambassadorial role at Old Trafford. ‘I’m sure that will happen in some way,’ he confirmed.
For now, though, he is looking forward to owning one of the MLS ‘development franchises’ (essentially one of the smaller, newer clubs) in the near future and keeping retirement at bay that little bit longer.
Mum's the word: Beckham did not discuss his future
‘I wouldn’t say I’m scared of retiring,’ he said. ‘But I know I will miss it when I finish playing, of course. Every player and every professional person who walks away from a job misses it.
‘I’d like to be an owner because I don’t want to be a manager. Management has never interested me. I love playing and coaching but I would rather be an owner. In the MLS.’
Beckham is expected to spend Christmas in England. Indeed his wife Victoria and their four children have already left America for the UK.
It won’t be long before his next move becomes clear. Meanwhile he will have time to watch his best friend Gary Neville’s TV career blossoming.
‘He’s always loved to talk so it doesn’t surprise me,’ he laughed. ‘Sometimes he makes sense and sometimes you just have to ignore him.’