One is a globally popular symbol of modern celebrity whose looks, charity work, and visits to troops in Afghanistan have endeared him to millions.
The other is a controversial convict, whose move abroad was brought on by a 12-match ban for a violent outburst on the final day of last season, and whose vicious attacks on team mates (including a cigar-in-eye incident) ended his Manchester City career.
And in a fortnight the two Englishmen abroad may well face off, when David Beckham's Paris St Germain play Joey Barton's Marseille in French football's biggest derby.
PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said today that Beckham is likely to make his debut in Le Classique February 24.
Asked when Beckham would be fit to play, the Italian told French sports daily L'Equipe: "Against Marseille I think. We will see in the coming days but maybe he will be a bit on the short side for the Sochaux game (this weekend)."
Former England captain Beckham joined the French champions as a free agent last month but has to improve his fitness before he can challenge for a place in the squad.
He made global headlines last month by announcing that his £8.5m salary will be given to a children's charity.
Barton, on the other hand, was sent off for the first time in Ligue 1, for his second yellow card against Nancy.
The former Newcastle and Man City man is on loan from current club QPR, and it may surprise some that it took him so long to get sent off. In 2008 he was jailed after admitting assault and affray on a street in Liverpool city centre.
Upon joining his current employers, he called on the fans not to prejudge him, and said his reputation as a bad boy was unfair. But in a friendly game in October against FC Istres, he wrestled Ivorian striker Guy-Roland Niangbo to the ground before squaring up for a heated exchange.
PSG, who lead second-placed Olympique Lyon by six points, travel to Valencia on Tuesday for the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie.
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