David Beckham failed to become one of the world’s top soccer players after he left Manchester United (MANU:US) because he was distracted by his pursuit of fame, former coach Alex Ferguson said in his autobiography.
Beckham left for Real Madrid in 2003, and also played for the Los Angeles Galaxy and AC Milan before retiring at Paris Saint-Germain last season. Ferguson, in his book “My Autobiography,” said the player became focused on celebrity and that “I could see him being swallowed up by the media or publicity agents.”
“For my money, after the change, he never attained the level where you would say: that is an absolute top player,” Ferguson wrote.
Beckham, 38, remains one of the world’s most marketable sports personalities. Forbes magazine in June put his total earnings at $47 million, making him the eighth-highest paid athlete. The former midfielder has deals with Adidas AG (ADS), Hennes & Mauritz AB (HMB) and Coty Inc. (COTY:US) In March he took on a role as global ambassador for Chinese soccer.
“At some point in his life, he may feel the urge to say: I made a mistake,” Ferguson says of Beckham in the 400-page book.
The autobiography is being published tomorrow, and in it the 71-year-old discusses his time in charge of the defending English Premier League champion. He spent more than 26 years at Manchester United, winning 38 trophies.
The Scot talks about his relationship with former captain Roy Keane, who he let move to Celtic after the midfielder went on the club’s television channel and blasted younger teammates.
Ferguson said of Keane that “the hardest part of Roy’s body is his tongue. He has the most savage tongue you can imagine. He can debilitate the most confident person in the world in seconds with that tongue.”
The relationship continues to be troubled after Keane took on the role of an analyst on television, Ferguson said.
Keane responded to Ferguson’s criticism on ITV last night and accused him of lacking loyalty.
“I do remember having conversations with the manager when I was at the club about loyalty. In my opinion he doesn’t know the meaning of the word,” Keane said. “It doesn’t bother me too much what he has to say about me, but to constantly criticize other players at the club who brought him a lot of success, I find very, very strange. I certainly won’t be losing any sleep over it.”
As for Ferguson’s criticism of Beckham, Keane said, “I just don’t think the manager needs to do it.”
Ferguson also said in his book that he resisted calls from some supporters to quit after the 2005 takeover of United by the Glazer family, which also owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League.
The Americans have brought in more advertising and marketing money from brands around the world, which helps pay the club’s debts, he said.
“At no stage was I held back by the Glazer ownership,” Ferguson said. “Often we would lose interest in a player because the transfer fee or wage demands had become silly. There was no edict from above to spend only in line with the club’s debts.”
Ferguson also managed clubs including Aberdeen, where he won three Scottish league titles and the European Cup Winners’ Cup, and led Scotland at the 1986 World Cup.
He said he turned down two requests from the Football Association to manage England’s national team. Ferguson wrote that the first offer was around 1999 before Kevin Keegan took over, and then the F.A. returned with another attempt before Sven-Goran Eriksson accepted the post in 2001.
“My Autobiography,” by Alex Ferguson, is published by Hodder & Stoughton (25 pounds).
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