'He's affected, a nancy boy'

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The Independent Football

The diehards in Madrid's Bar Las Tres yesterday favoured their own boys rather than the glamorous newcomer from Manchester.

"He kicks the ball well, made some nice passes, but so far, he's nothing special," sniffed Adolfo. His quieter companion Felix leaned forward: "He's a good player, strong, but we'll have to see how he plays in the Bernabeu."

Adolfo interrupted with his analysis. "Florentino Perez is the smartest sports businessman in Spain. He's made a golden signing with Beckham. But look at him, with his poncy ponytail. He spends ¤60,000 a year on three hairdressers. Ten workers could eat for a year on that."

Zidane, so my newfound experts explained to me, was the artist of Real Madrid, Roberto Carlos the strength, Raul the heart and soul, Figo the technician, Ronaldo the speed. And Beckham?

"I don't like him," said Julio. "He's affected, a nancy boy." You mean the ponytail? "No, the way he plays. He's too refined. His signing was all about money and image."

Adolfo had a final thought. "The only thing I like about Beckham is his wife, even though" ­ he touched my arm to qualify the point ­ "I don't know her personally."