Beckham clears the main distraction

Countdown to Euro 2004
Click to follow
The Independent Online

So the Beckham signing is going through at last. After all the speculation and hype, Brooklyn, five, has pledged his future to an infant school in Spain, confounding last month's capital-letter headline from the capital in one normally cerebral British newspaper: "ADIOS MADRID". The subheading, "Beckham to call time on Spanish adventure for Chelsea move", need not be deleted from the computer, merely saved for a quiet day next season, when the story will undoubtedly resurface.

So the Beckham signing is going through at last. After all the speculation and hype, Brooklyn, five, has pledged his future to an infant school in Spain, confounding last month's capital-letter headline from the capital in one normally cerebral British newspaper: "ADIOS MADRID". The subheading, "Beckham to call time on Spanish adventure for Chelsea move", need not be deleted from the computer, merely saved for a quiet day next season, when the story will undoubtedly resurface.

In the meantime, Sven Goran Eriksson for one will be delighted that the immediate future of Brooklyn's father David has been resolved and that neither man need waste any time at umpteen media conferences over the next six weeks discussing whether they will be working in tandem at Stamford Bridge come August.

Assuming there are no further surprises in store once Real Madrid's presidential elections take place, Beckham will be able to concentrate on the tasks demanded by Euro 2004 without distractions from the agents and suitors Eriksson wants banned from England's hotel just outside Lisbon.

It is a sensible outcome for all concerned. To have returned from Spain after one season, in which his team's hopes turned to so much dust and Beckham was characterised as Forrest Gump, would have been to condemn England's captain to a place alongside Ian Rush, Des Walker and other British icons unable to cut it in what the 1940s song called "faraway places with strange-sounding names".

Instead of having his career scarred for ever with that stigma, he has another oppor-tunity to enhance it over the next 12 months at a club who seem to be realising at last the folly of their recruitment policy. In buying the powerful Argentinian defender Walter Samuel from Roma, Real have indicated some willingness to address the problems evident throughout (and long before) a season that could come to a dismal conclusion tonight. Whatever Real manage in their home game against Sociedad, for which Beckham (sent off last week) and Zinedine Zidane are unavailable, they will trail in third in the table unless Barcelona, with only one defeat in 19 matches, lose to Zaragoza.

As well as the sack for their coach of one season, Carlos Queiroz - would he be welcomed back by Manchester United? - that would of course mean the indignity shared with Sir Alex Ferguson's team of having to play a Champions' League qualifying round. Either way, Madrid will be able to forget for a while about the marriage tribulations of minor royalty and concentrate on the real thing as Crown Prince Felipe gets hooked this weekend.

Beckham, meanwhile, can put his energies into delivering the tournament that he has never yet managed for his country, having previously saved his best moments for qualifying games. His international debut was in Glenn Hoddle's first game as national manager, a qualifier in Moldova in September, 1996, but come the finals, Hoddle belittled his efforts in training and initially declined to select him, before the infamous sending-off against Argentina.

Euro 2000 was no more successful than for any of his team-mates and also included a one-finger gesture to abusive fans; after ensuring the team's place at the last World Cup by playing Greece single-handed, Beckham broke a bone and was not fully fit for the tournament. Now England expects; and possibly even wonders how many more major championships the captain, at 28, has in him.

Suggestions that he is reluctant to talk to BSkyB because of the hour-long interview in which Rebecca Loos discussed their relationship will have to be smoothed over in Sky Sports' build-up to the forthcoming friendly matches against Japan (30 May) and Iceland (1 June); and it is true that the marriage of another England captain, Billy Wright, to a Beverley Sister never ever caused quite as many complications. But Eriksson insisted last week: "David has had some difficult times, but I'm sure when he puts on an England shirt he'll do the excellent job he always did. I'm 100 per cent sure he'll make a good tournament and behave on the pitch and off."

The Football Association are keen to keep news reporters and paparazzi away from the players and their families on this week's R & R trip to a holiday village in Sardinia, where only one strictly controlled media session will take place. The squad return next weekend to prepare for the Japan match, after which Eriksson must confirm his favoured 22 to Uefa.

They will be as named last Monday unless injury strikes in the meantime. A problem for a striker (Darius Vassell being the least obviously fit at present), or possibly a midfielder, would allow Tottenham's Jermain Defoe the break he deserves - one which Eriksson, by keeping him on board at this stage, almost seems to be willing.

Comments