Thursday, June 08, 2006

Everyone who doesn't watch soccer has asked me the same question, why haven't you talked about Beckham? The reason is, I believe Beckham is a good player but not one worth mentioning when you talk about the best players at the world cup. Due to his marketability though, it was a bit of oversight on my part to not at least mention him, his team and their chances to lift the cup. I will attempt to do that here.

The English team has little chance to win the world cup. Sure, they are a good team and among the favorites to lift the trophy but I just don't see how they can do it. Part of what makes the English team thrive is that they have great media backing. They are more pop than substance. if an English player is good he is suddenly elevated to godlike status because of the English media machine. Beckham by an large is a useful player. He is good. He is probably the best at crossing the ball from the wings and is a good taker of free kicks(you know, bend it like beckham). However, a player with simply those talents should not be the most recognizable face in world soccer.

David Beckham, trophyless in the last three years.

By way of comparison it would be like Shaun Marion being the most famous NBA player. Sure, he's good but the most recognizable face of the NBA? Many would find that preposterous. I feel the same way about Beckham. Fortunately for him he has three things working in his favor: 1) He's white, he speaks english and he's from Great Britian(home of soccer's top media machine). That's always a plus. When it was time for Real Madrid to choose between Beckham and Ronaldinho 3 years ago Real chose Beckham because he could sell more shirts and they felt Ronaldinho was "too ugly to market." Well, Ronaldinho went to Barcelona Real Madrid's chief rivals. In the three years since Barcelona has won the league title twice and the champions league. Real Madrid has not lifted a single trophy since Beckham has been there, but he has sold a lot of shirts because he's white and marketable.

The Beckham phenomena has worked for Wayne Rooney as well. Sure, Rooney is a fabulous player but is he that much better than Cristiano Ronaldo(young Portuguese player and Rooney's teammate at Manchester United), if at all? Is Rooney better than Adriano(Brazil), Messi(Argentina), Tevez(Argentina)? All these players are in Rooney's age group but they don't have the benefit of being English so they don't get the same marketability. They are all, however at least as good as Rooney is. This is no knock on Rooney because he is a fantastic player, but I want it to illustrate that when a player is English and he is good his talents are a little exaggerated in relation to those around him. Michael Owen is another example of the English media hype machine. What has he done since his goal in World Cup '98 except go to Real Madrid and sit the bench and then was offloaded to make room for Robinho, a young player who won't even be starting for Brazil at this year's world cup.

There are two English players who I feel are probably as good as anyone in their position: Steven Gerrard and John Terry. Gerrard proved his worth against AC Milan in the champions league final two years ago, bringing his team from three goals down in the second half to win the game.

Stevie G, a true G.

He is the only reason his club, Liverpool, has been hanging around the top of the league standings for the past few years. The rest of the English squad is a collection of average to slightly above average players who are overhyped. All sizzle, no steak. I think at the world cup you need to have the best player in the tournament to win it or a collection of players good enough to overcome other good teams. The world cup is not a place where underdogs win the tournament. The cream almost always rises to the top. I'm afraid neither England nor Beckham fit the bill this time around.


Blogger RafeBoogs said...

Doesn't the fact that Beckham looks, dresses and carries himself like a male model also play into his marketing value?

It's funny you mention Shawn Marion. Is there anyone in football/soccer whose form is analogous to the Matrix's legendarily ugly jump shot? Someone who only kicks the ball with the outside of his shin or something?

6:15 PM  

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