David Beckham will travel to South Africa next month with the England squad as a fully-fledged member of Fabio Capello's World Cup coaching staff, it emerged last night as the extraordinary role carved out for the injured midfielder became clear.
It was originally thought that the 35-year-old would just pay flying visits to the squad's Royal Bafokeng base camp in the North-West province but Capello has now decided to have him there on a full-time basis. It opens up the extraordinary possibility that Beckham would consider himself a potential successor to the Italian whenever he decided to call it a day.
Beckham will not travel to Austria for the pre-tournament altitude camp for which England depart on Monday but he will be on the official British Airways flight on 2 June to Johannesburg. It leaves the man with 115 caps for England open to accusations that despite the Achilles tendon injury he is not going to be deterred from having a slice of the World Cup glory to himself.
Beckham is not believed to have any coaching qualifications and has never expressed an interest in moving into management when his playing career is finished. However, this marks a bold new direction for the former England captain and will have a huge effect on the dynamic of the squad. It also demonstrates just how close the player is to Capello, his former coach at Real Madrid.
He will act as an intermediary between Capello and his players as well as taking part in the sessions laid on for the players. Capello already has a staff of six including general manager Franco Baldini; coaches Stuart Pearce and Italo Galbiati; goalkeeper coaches Franco Tancredi and Ray Clemence as well as fitness coach Massimo Neri.
The original promise that Beckham would be part of the squad was made in the aftermath of his Achilles injury in March when sympathy was running high for the player. Yet Capello's loyalty to his record-breaking midfielder seems to know no bounds and he has stayed true to his word. The England manager was singing the praises of Beckham on Monday when he said that the player made an invaluable contribution to the spirit of his squad.
Capello said: "When I selected David you [the press] always asked me 'Why?' David played only ten, 20 or 30 minutes in games. He is really important for the dressing room spirit that he always had in training. It is important for him to set an example. Some players like this are really important to me both as part of the group and when they play."
Beckham has the record for caps for an outfield player in the England team but, in terms of coaching experience, his does not extend much further than a few sessions in front of the cameras at one of his "David Beckham academies". What is not clear is how the other players will react to the most famous English footballer of his generation being pushed back into their midst.
Beckham has already agreed to play a key role in England's 2018 World Cup bid. He is personally handing over the Football Association's "bid book" – their formal technical application – to Fifa president Sepp Blatter in Zurich a week today. The 2018 team are trying to do their best to exploit Beckham's burgeoning personal relationship with Blatter to their own ends.
Whatever the situation with his Achilles, Beckham was due to play a major role in glad-handing the Fifa executive committee members over the course of the tournament. He will also use the time in South Africa to continue his recuperation from his injury.
Beckham will no doubt be ready for the inevitable questions about whether he will get the preferential treatment that was his due when he was England captain, right down to first refusal on the best rooms allocated to the squad in hotels.Reuse content