FRISCO, Texas – According to Manchester United folklore, David Beckham has always had an eye for the spotlight.
The tale still handed down to young trainees who start to show signs of a big head is that the teenage Beckham was once spotted repeatedly driving around a block in one of the busiest areas of the city, with windows down and shades on, and waiting to be noticed.
Such antics were frowned upon by United captain Steve Bruce and former England skipper Bryan Robson, the godfathers of the team, and when news filtered back, they decided to mete out their own brand of punishment by bundling their young colleague into a spin dryer.
Beckham has never spoken about the prank, which Bruce – now manager of Birmingham City – swears is true. In any case, it certainly didn't steer the midfielder away from the limelight.
In later years, when fame and fortune found Beckham in ways he could never have imagined, the intensity of scrutiny has not always been entirely welcome. For sure, anyone who leads such a public lifestyle as Beckham and his wife Victoria must expect constant attention, but there were times in Manchester and at Real Madrid when some form of escape would have been welcome.
FC Dallas goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, who knows Beckham well and played against him many times in the English Premier League, believes the England star's move to the Los Angeles Galaxy will add some welcome balance to his life.
"Playing in Europe, you get a certain level of notoriety that follows soccer players and you get used to that," Hislop said. "That is not the case here in America. For most of us, once we leave the park, most people don't know who we are.
"David will certainly be recognized – he is a face people know – but here, high-profile people get more space, especially in Los Angeles because there are so many famous celebrities there.
"He could have the best of both worlds now. He will have the attention he has grown used to, but he will have the privacy when he wants it."
In Manchester, the legendary status of the young United team that dominated the late 1990s was set in stone while they were still in their heyday. As the trendy face of a city rapidly shedding its grim, industrial image and emerging as a hip destination, Beckham was every bit as cool as Noel and Liam Gallagher, the frontmen for the rock band Oasis.
In Madrid, where soccer is as important as religion, there was constant recognition and reminders of how much Real means to its people. The pressure of being a Galactico only increased with every trophy-free season until finally, in his last game, Beckham helped clinch the La Liga title.
And while Posh and Becks undoubtedly thrive in the spotlight, and count the likes of Tom Cruise and Elton John as personal friends, they are keen to give sons Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz as normal of an upbringing as possible.
As a footballer, Beckham said he wants to be treated like "any other player." It will be hard to achieve that with his Galaxy teammates. Elsewhere in the league, it will be impossible.
"It will be a bit like the FA Cup in England, when you get a lower league team come up against some of the big name clubs. The smaller team so often raises their game because they want to make a point to their opponents with a big reputation," Hislop said. "The players in the MLS will want to show David what they can do and they will not make it easy for him. He has thrived in that kind of situation before, but it will certainly be a challenge.
"I am sure he will enjoy it, and the American game has been crying out for someone like David to come over to draw some real attention. It will be a good chance for some players to get a few bragging rights – if they win a tackle against Beckham or dribble past him it will be something to tell people about."
Hislop, a Trinidad and Tobago international who played for Newcastle, Reading, West Ham and Portsmouth in an impressive career, said he hopes Beckham avoids some of the teething troubles he had to endure when moving to the States.
During a ferocious Texas storm, a tree from a neighboring property blew over and crashed through the roof of the Hislop home, and he and his family still live in rented housing while the damage is fixed. But as Hislop added: "I'm not sure he will need to worry too much about that in California."
- Manchester United