Beckham on the trail of Sir Bobby instead of Pink Panther

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The Independent Online

So long as Sir Bobby Charlton's record is there to be broken, the Oscar can wait. David Beckham took a break from England's preparations for tomorrow's friendly international here against Spain to reveal that he had turned down the opportunity to develop an acting career in order to concentrate on his goal of beating Sir Bobby's number of appearances for his country.

So long as Sir Bobby Charlton's record is there to be broken, the Oscar can wait. David Beckham took a break from England's preparations for tomorrow's friendly international here against Spain to reveal that he had turned down the opportunity to develop an acting career in order to concentrate on his goal of beating Sir Bobby's number of appearances for his country.

While the somewhat more retiring Michael Owen, his England and Real Madrid colleague, announced that the height of his ambitions was to be remembered as "a decent footballer", Beckham revealed that his aim was to surpass the number of international appearances made by Charlton (106) and Bobby Moore (108).

It would appear that Peter Shilton, who holds the record with 125 England caps, is either beyond Beckham's reach or not worthy of emulation.

"I set a target for myself when I got into the England team and when I was given the captaincy to reach the record of Bobby Charlton, who's an idol of mine and my Dad's, and Bobby Moore's record," Beckham said. "To be up there with Sir Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore would be amazing."

Almost as amazing, perhaps, as the thought that the England captain might follow Eric Cantona, his predecessor in the Manchester United No 7 shirt, on to the silver screen. Beckham said: "I was offered a part in the new Pink Panther movie that's coming out soon with Beyonce and Steve Martin. I had a lot of games coming up and I decided not to do it. I don't know what part it was - but it was quite a good part apparently."

He added: "I've never said that I want to go into movies. I've been offered a couple of things, like the Pink Panther film, but my football comes first. After that we'll have to wait and see. I'll concentrate on my football first."

The question of life after football moved on to the agenda after a weekend interview in which Beckham suggested that the 2006 World Cup might be his last. Beckham explained yesterday: "I was asked if the next World Cup would be my last one. I said it possibly could be. But I'm hoping it's not. I want to carry on playing for England for as long as I can and if that means playing after the World Cup then great, because I don't want to retire from playing for my country."

As for breaking records for international appearances, Beckham agreed that he would probably have to play beyond 2006 in order to reach his goal. "I've done the maths and I understand that," he said.

While the appearance record of Beckham's own idol, Bryan Robson, whose 90 caps put him fifth in the all-time England list behind Shilton, Moore, Charlton and Billy Wright, is a more realistic target, cap No 77 will follow here tomorrow in the Bernabeu Stadium, home of Beckham's Spanish club. The England captain proved his return to fitness, after suffering broken ribs last month in England's World Cup qualifier against Wales, when he played for Real Madrid on Sunday. His club coach hopes he will not have to play the full 90 minutes tomorrow, but Beckham is sure to start.

"As a youngster I always wanted to play for Manchester United and my country," Beckham said. "To lead my country out at Old Trafford was a dream come true. Now, to lead England out at the Bernabeu as a Real Madrid player is special."

Beckham believes that playing for Real has improved him as a player. "I've had to adapt to certain ways of controlling myself and performing on the pitch," he said. "Whatever people say, whether it's been a good or a bad time over here for me, I've enjoyed it so far and I'll carry on enjoying it. I feel that I've learned a lot from playing in a different country."

Had there been a down side to the Real experience? "Being able to take my son to school is something that I would like to do, but my wife and I have been told that we can't do that any more because of the four or five film crews that are outside the school every day. That's one thing that I would like to change and that I've not been happy with."

Owen, meanwhile, is also enjoying his Madrid experience, particularly since he moved out of his hotel and into a new home here last week. "It's nice to feel comfortable off the pitch," he said. "It's no surprise that if you're feeling comfortable about everything you go on to the pitch more focused about your game. The first couple of months was difficult. Maybe it showed in my performances. Now that things are settling down my performances are improving as well."

Owen scored his sixth goal in eight games during Real's victory over Albacete on Sunday. As for future England targets, Owen said that he would not be thinking about Charlton's record of 49 goals for his country until he was closer to the target. He has scored 28 so far. Beyond that, he said that it was no concern that he was not regarded as a Real galactico. "I've just wanted to be successful as a footballer and when I retire I hope that people will remember me as a decent footballer and I can enjoy the rest of my life doing whatever I want to do."

Would he consider an acting career? "I don't think so. Someone else deals with that. If anything appeals they'll tell me about it, but people obviously don't think I'm a good actor."

¿ Joe Cole pulled out of the England squad yesterday with a stomach complaint but will not be replaced. Real Madrid's Ivan Helguera and Barcelona's Carles Puyol have withdrawn from the Spanish squad because of injury. Athletic Bilbao's Pablo Orbaiz, and Real Betis's centre-back, Juanito, have been called up in their place.

The Centurions

All-time caps

Peter Shilton: 125

Bobby Moore: 108

Bobby Charlton: 106

Billy Wright: 105

Current leading caps

David Beckham: 76

Gary Neville: 72

Michael Owen: 65

Phil Neville: 50

Nicky Butt: 38

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