David Beckham has already enjoyed a dream season. Playing the
best football of his career at Real Madrid, and with a major
role in their assault on the Champions League, Primera División
and Copa del Rey, Beckham has more than lived up to the
expectation created by his €35m move from Manchester United
last June. He has proved there is plenty of substance to go
with his undoubted style.
11 February 2004
switch to a new country and a shift in position from right to
central midfield, where he has prospered of late alongside
Guti, has been shouldered with ease and the Madrid superstars
have praised his commitment to the cause. However, even if his
club triumph on all three fronts, an even greater challenge
awaits. Beckham will captain England at EURO 2004 and has a
realistic ambition of lifting the Henri Delaunay trophy.
Speaking to uefa.com, he said: "It always means a great
deal for me to be captain of my country so to lead us into the
championships will be special." For England, it is likely
that Beckham will revert to his old right-sided berth,
although coach Sven-Göran Eriksson has riches in midfield and
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is a proven performer on that
Eriksson could show his hand next Wednesday, with England's
trip to take on EURO 2004 hosts Portugal in a friendly at the
Algarve stadium. With the finals drawing near, the sides, who
could meet in the quarter-finals this summer, are expected to
field their strongest possible lineups.
Wherever he plays in Faro, Beckham has plenty of reason to
perform well. Not least because he will be up against Madrid
colleague Luís Figo, but also because of the nations'
group-stage encounter four years ago at EURO 2000. Two Beckham
assists helped England into a two-goal lead only for the
Portuguese to fight back for a 3-2 triumph, and ultimately
qualify. England went home.
The challenge facing the 28-year-old promises to be no easier
this summer, with France, Croatia and Switzerland all to come.
Beckham said: "We are very happy with the group but it is
a very difficult group as well. It's something that we're
looking forward to but it is going to be hard."
The French are up first on 13 June, and Beckham cannot wait to
take on the holders. "You always like to play against the
best teams and the best players and France are one of the best
teams in the world," he said. "It's going to be a
But first things first for Beckham, and February could prove
to be the deciding month of Madrid's season. Wednesday night
sees the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final with
Sevilla. Madrid travel with a 2-0 advantage but will remember
a 4-1 defeat by the same opponents last November.
Then on Sunday, league leaders Madrid welcome second-placed
Valencia to the Santiago Bernabéu for a game with significant
championship consequences. If that was not enough, Madrid then
visit Bayern München on 24 February for their Champions
League first knockout round first-leg fixture.
"I think it's a difficult match," Beckham said.
"Every time you come up against Bayern it is very
difficult, but it's a game you have to look forward to because
it's one of the biggest games in Europe." Over the coming
months, looking forward will become a popular pastime in the
Beckham household. - Greg
Demetriou & Borja Bilbao