Beckham should call time on England career

Martin Rogers
Yahoo! Sports

David Beckham should do himself, England and the Los Angeles Galaxy a big favor this weekend by calling time on the extended farewell tour that has become his international career.

Saturday's 2010 World Cup qualifier against Kazakhstan at London's Wembley Stadium would be the perfect opportunity for Beckham to say goodbye after 106 national team appearances and allow all parties to move on.

His England story has become increasingly about numbers and milestones more than genuine production.

First, there was the will-he-or-won't-he saga surrounding his 100th England cap, which he finally achieved against France in March. Once that came and went, thoughts turned to 108, the number of appearances made by England's most capped outfield player and World Cup winning captain Bobby Moore. Even 125, the all-time England record held by goalkeeper Peter Shilton, has been mentioned as a possible target.

Yet all each little historical landmark served to achieve was to mask the fact that Beckham's work with England is done.

England is growing in confidence under Fabio Capello, with the hesitancy and uncertainty that marked Steve McClaren's doomed reign having been comprehensively swept away. In the transitional phase, Beckham still offered some value, as a steady and familiar character to be relied upon for maximum effort and commitment. But with young sensation Theo Walcott continuing to emerge as a genuine potential world superstar, the right-hand side of midfield is in safe hands.

The new England has a fresh look, one which depends on pace and dynamism. Such qualities are encapsulated perfectly by Walcott, the fearless Arsenal wunderkind.

From Capello's point of view, there is no harm in keeping Beckham around. The veteran is friends with Walcott, and Beckham has impressed many with the way he has helped the 19-year-old settle into the squad. Yet there can be no long-term value in carrying a player on those factors alone, especially as Walcott is becoming more and more assured within the national team setup.

That brings us to the topic of whether Beckham still warrants selection on form alone. The answer, sadly, is now a definite "no."

At the start of the Major League Soccer season, he was in fine shape, helping the Galaxy make a 6-4-2 start and winning the league's player of the week award in Week 2. Recently though, he is a reflection of the malaise that gripped the club after the opening weeks of the campaign and never let go.

For a player of his credentials and ability, Beckham has been poor and ineffective during the long and miserable run which saw the Galaxy win only one game since June. Frustration has been etched upon his face in several games, even in the team's sole recent victory against D.C. United when he constantly clashed with officials.

Beckham's ill temper earned him a suspension for collecting five yellow cards, meaning he will miss the trip to Houston on October 18 and will play just once more for the Galaxy this season in their final meaningless home game against the Colorado Rapids.

The Galaxy organization is mired in catastrophe and, if for no other reason than his astronomical pay packet, he owes the club his full attention in its hour of need.

Beckham has been a worker, a fighter and a team player his entire career, and the abject humiliation being suffered by MLS's most famous club is severely damaging his legacy. At this rate, he will be leaving American soccer in three years time with precious little imprint except for some shirts sold and some extra backsides in seats.

It would take more than an ever-present Beckham to lift the Galaxy from 14th and last place in the entire league next season, but by putting the club first he would deliver a powerful signal of intent.

The dynamics of world soccer dictate that players should not have to choose between club and country. But the reality is somewhat different to the principle, especially in MLS, which does not recognize international dates and carries on regardless.

No player should be criticized for showing patriotic loyalty, yet the gravity of this situation is such that it demands his focus.

Beckham looks very much like a player who does not want to be in Los Angeles. That is not necessarily a knock on him. There are around 20 other players at the club about whom the same could be said. Yet none of them make a guaranteed salary of more than $6 million, plus tens of millions more in endorsements.

The Galaxy's failure is a disaster on the scale of which we have rarely seen in sports: the highest-paid team with the highest profile and the highest expectations floundering to an inexplicable level of ineptitude.

The team is not just bad. They're not just missing out on championships and narrowly failing to squeeze into the playoffs. They are the worst team in the league by a distance and, apart from expansion teams, one of the worst sides MLS has ever seen.

The San Jose Earthquakes – with a fraction of L.A.'s budget, the head coach that the Galaxy discarded (Frank Yallop), some solid but unspectacular players and a 32-year-old import in Darren Huckerby – have drastically outperformed L.A. for several months.

The Galaxy need some hunger and passion and they need leadership from the front. They need Beckham to stand up and be counted and to carry players along in his slipstream.

Next season will be vital to the credibility of the organization and it needs a fresh Beckham to begin the campaign.

This weekend would be the right time for him to bid an emotional farewell to his beloved England fans, at the home of English football, following what will surely be a comprehensive victory.

When Beckham arrived in the United States, he insisted he was here to achieve bigger things for the sport of soccer and for his new team. If those were more than empty words and he is serious about leaving behind a legacy of success rather than embarrassment, now is the time to prove it.

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