So it seems that the football gods have finally seen enough of David Beckham. While it would be presumptuous, and wrong, to assume that he will be forced into retirement because of his freak injury, it would be a safe bet that his international career is over.
It is an international career that will be defined by two moments: his foolish kick against Argentina, and his inspired kick against Greece. One arguably ruined his country’s World Cup, and the other salvaged one before it even started. Even so, on the international scene at least, his career has remained somewhat unfulfilled for such a star player. Think of 1958 and you think of Pele. Think of 1986 and you think of Maradona. Think of 1998 and you think of Zidane. Think of 2002 and you think of Ronaldo. Beckham’s World Cup history reads: one sending off, and two campaigns hampered by injury and fitness problems. This time he doesn’t even make it on the plane.
The harsh reality of the situation, is that it really has little impact on England’s chances of winning the World Cup. His main role would have been as an impact substitute, although you cannot underestimate the man’s value when it comes to experience. 115 caps tells you all you need to know in that regard. However, perhaps it is best for the younger members of the squad to stand up and prove their own ability, and forget about Beckham. Shaun Wright-Phillips is 28, and yet he has done very little in an England shirt. James Milner is also at an age where he can really make a mark at international level, and all the signs are there that he will. If Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott can recover their fitness and form, then they have the potential to make a huge impact, not just in South Africa, but in many future tournaments.
Those four players eliminate the need for Beckham at the World Cup, regardless of his unfortunate Achilles injury. They are all in their 20s, and need to sink or swim. There is no guarantee, even without Beckham, that Capello can fit them all into his final squad, but they each offer more mobility and power then their veteran rival. Consistency is obviously an issue with all four, but let’s be realistic, even Beckham at the peak of his powers was never consistent at international level. His golden moments were few and far between, and they were many moons ago.
Perhaps after this summer’s World Cup we will even be discussing the need for Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. South Africa will decide once and for all whether they can play in the same team, as if they are both fit, they will both play. Capello was supposed to be the man who was able to solve that terrible conundrum. So far, against lesser opposition, he has succeeded. But if another summer of disappointment ensues, Capello will surely have to take a stand, and drop one of them. He has already taken such a decision by stripping John Terry of the captaincy. However, one decision he could never seem to make was to drop Beckham. The only dropping that has taken place was a 50 tonne anvil from the sky onto Beckham’s foot.