Beckham's strike delivers the perfect retort to Capello

Click to follow
The Independent Football

It was not quite the last-minute free-kick against Greece that got England to the 2002 World Cup finals or the penalty he subsequently scored against Argentina in the tournament, but David Beckham will not forget his 37th-minute goal against Real Sociedad on Saturday.

After a month of being ignored by the Real coach, Fabio Capello, dropped from the squad for the six games that followed the announcement of his summer move to LA Galaxy, labelled a "half-baked actor" by the club's president Ramon Calderon and a "traitor" by the club's sporting director, Predrag Mijatovic, Beckham was back in Real's first team, 34 days after being told he would never play for them again. And for a game his coach could not afford to lose.

That Capello did not lose was thanks largely to Beckham and the 11th free-kick goal of his Real Madrid career which cancelled out Mikel Aranburu's seventh-minute opener. "He has only every scored two or three free-kicks and he has taken plenty of them", Capello had snapped when asked if Real were missing his set-pieces.

Not only was the goal the perfect retort to that particular verbal swipe but Beckham's wholehearted display in Madrid's 2-1 win over Real Sociedad made a mockery of the fears Capello expressed over his commitment to the cause.

"Capello owes him one" was Spanish sports paper Marca's front-page headline. After the game the Italian coach was begrudgingly complimentary. "The goal that he scored was very important. He deserves the credit," he said.

Ruud van Nistelrooy, who scored his 11th league goal of the season three minutes into the second half to complete Real's comeback paid tribute to Beckham's fitness after a month without a match. "His attitude has been impeccable," Van Nistelrooy said. "When you are out for a month it's not easy to come back and be at your peak but he always trains so well."

Asked if he had apologised to Beckham for his month out of football, Capello said: "As I said before the game the intelligent man corrects his mistakes.

"I have spoken to David several times during the last two weeks but it hasn't been necessary to apologise. I put him back in the side because I have seen that he has trained well over the last three weeks. Now we have to think about the future and not the past."

In the immediate future the pressure stays on Capello. Real Madrid have not won at home for a month. Next Saturday Real Betis are the visitors and three days later they face Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Two games that, injury permitting, Beckham will not be watching from the stands.