Beckhamitis

ON and on it rolls, the story of David Beckham, his millions, his hopes, his troubles and his ineffable wife.

GLANVILLE

"David Beckham, a simple, multi-millionaire soul, now has just one millstone to contend with: his wife, Victoria," says the author. — Pic. KOICHI KAMOSHIDA/GETTY IMAGES-

ON and on it rolls, the story of David Beckham, his millions, his hopes, his troubles and his ineffable wife. Every day, it seems, there is a new story to tell and to marvel at. Some of them inspired, if that be the word, by his new, ghosted autobiography in which he does his best to set the record straight on his relations with Alex Ferguson, once a father figure, now a seeming nightmare. Not that it matters, really. Caught previously between the upper and the nether millstone, this simple, multi-millionaire soul, the epitome of conspicuous consumption — one loses count of his cars — now has just one millstone to contend with: his wife, Relatively Posh Spice.

It is something of a shock to learn that though she is less rich than he, with his multitude of commercial endorsements all over the world, from sunglasses to mobile phones to car oil — she is worth (worth?) well over �20 million. This for her earnings as a Spice Girl, and does that not tell you something? For the Spice Girls, who now, Heaven help us, are threatening to get together again, were an object of pure promotion, foisted upon a deluded and naive public, which at one point seemed even to include Prince Charles.

To say that Posh Spice couldn't sing very well was and is irrelevant. In a world where a run of the mill performer such as Robbie Williams can sign a contract worth �89 million, who dares whether these pop stars can sing at all? Promotion is all; and at least Beckham can play football, though his definite but limited talents are being trumpeted for far more than they are worth.

Good, though, to see that after a stumble or two, he seems to have made a good start against all forecasts at Real Madrid, not least because Luis Figo that vastly more gifted Portuguese right winger has generously agreed to operate on the left leaving Beckham to play on the right, rather than waste his substance in a more central midfield position. He actually headed a goal in the Spanish so-called Super Cup in the second leg won 3-0 at the Bernabeu and followed up with a goal in his opening Primera Liga match.

Better still, his manager, the Portuguese Quieroz, who coached him at Manchester United, his business supremo, Emilio Butragueno, once such a star centre forward with the club, and his fellow players seem to have accepted him. They like him, they like the hard work he does on the field. By contrast there are rumbles and rumours that his England colleagues are a little less enthusiastic at the welter of publicity he is getting. It's said that one reason why a number of them stayed in bed in Durban rather than get up early to fly all the way to Johannesburg on that recent, redundant South American trip to pay homage to Nelson Mandela was because they were sick of Beckham hogging the limelight.

Do United miss him? Yes, of course they do, and they were always going to. What he was so badly capable of doing on that right flank, scoring with his right footed swerving free kicks, shooting from afar, finding his colleagues in the box from a distance with those perfectly calibrated crosses, no one else there can do. A meagre 1-0 win at Old Trafford against struggling Wolves was followed by a dim defeat at Southampton where the team never looked likely to get into gear. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer it is true wasn't there to play on the right flank but then he will never for all his talents do what Beckham does; or did.

In his autobiography, Beckham does his best to set the record straight on his relations with Alex Ferguson, once a father figure, now a seeming nightmare. — Pic. GARY M. PRIOR/GETTY IMAGES-

Spending astronomical sums on jewellery, clothes, his fleet of cars, Beckham however much he splashes out will surely never be in want of money for the rest of his life; he is most unlikely to splurge it away as so many ex-star footballers have done, on drink and gambling. Yet, at the same time you wonder what life after football will hold from him, however devoted he undoubtedly is to his family, his wife and two small children. Relatively Posh Spice notoriously wears the trousers; ferociously ambitious, as domineering it seems in her way as Ferguson was. She needs him badly to ignite her shaky career, which is now in the United States being manipulated by an immensely rich but none too salubrious rap artist.

Yet, you have to doff your hat to her for the way she seems to have endeared herself to Anna "Nuclear" Wintour, the icily controlling, ultra chic, still thinner than Posh editress of the magazine Vogue in New York. You'd think that Wintour could never give the time of day to someone who, whatever the cost of her couture clothes, gives vulgar materialism a bad name; not least with that appalling Irish wedding which the Beckhams had when each of them sat crowned on a throne. But it seems that the two have a warm rapport and if Posh can achieve that, you may feel she can achieve anything. Even a solo career despite her difficulties, though as the famous American essayist H. L. Mencken put it, "No one ever went broke underestimating public taste."

Beckham's book has very sharp and bitter words for Ferguson, some justified, some debatable. But he brings the flying boot incident in the United dressing room after his team had been knocked out of the FA Cup at Old Trafford into sharper focus. We knew that Fergie in his infantile rage had kicked a football boot across the dressing room, which — by sheer chance, we were assured — had hit and cut Beckham just above the eye. Now we get what is allegedly the full story; that Fergie blamed Beckham for the second Arsenal goal in their 2-0 defeat, that Beckham furiously objected, that Fergie then kicked the boot — judge for yourself whether it was at random — and that Beckham, in pain, had to be restrained from attacking him. Beckham also insists that he still wanted to stay with United who were reportedly incensed when they heard his agents had talked to Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Just testing the waters, they insist, but United are fully entitled to ask why. And one doubts Beckham's reaction to Fergie's own reaction when, coming on as sub against Real in the Euro return, and scoring from one free kick, he sent another over the bar. Beckham saw Fergie's response as a criticism of himself. It looked more like mere despair. And Fergie was surely quite justified in starting with Beckham on the bench after his feeble display at the Bernabeu in the first leg. Though if Fergie really did object to Beckham joining the England team that met the Queen rather than fly off on a West Indies holiday which notionally would get him fit again; Petty stuff, but the reality is that Beckham has gone and United will miss him. He's a simple soul indeed but at least he isn't an overbearing bully who kicks boots around.