Five stages of David Beckham: The biggest moments of his career
David Beckham turns 40 on Saturday. What were the events that made him the global icon he is today? We look at the five stages of Beckham's life.
King of all Cockneys
Despite coming from Chingford in east London, Beckham had Manchester United in his blood. His father, Ted, was (and remains) a match-going Cockney Red. Having won a Bobby Charlton Soccer School award, David achieved father and son's dream with a schoolboy contract. A lone Londoner in United's Class of '92, Beckham was mocked for his Brylcreemed hair and his overprotection of the leather seats in his club car. Eventually, he joined his mates in the backbone of Sir Alex Ferguson's second great United team, the eventual 1999 treble winners.
When 2 become 1
Goals were flying in, but Beckham was about to be exposed to a world beyond football. When the Spice Girls' Victoria Adams attended a United match at Chelsea in 1997 with bandmate Mel C, love at first sight resulted. Victoria and David became an instant item, and Beckham hit the front pages, becoming a metrosexual pioneer as he wore sarongs and leather suits with Posh Spice on his arm. Ferguson never approved -- probably still doesn't, in fact -- but David and Victoria remain together to this day.
National lampoon to national statesman
"Ten brave Lions, one stupid boy," thundered the Daily Mirror after Beckham's Saint-Etienne sending-off at the 1998 World Cup in France. Four years later, an entire nation was agonising over the health of his broken toe. Now, despite the tattoos and the continuing tonsorial experiments, he is an establishment figure. Seemingly each year ends in amazement that he will not be knighted in the New Year Honours list. When England wanted to host the 2018 World Cup, it called for Beckham, even using him as an executive cheerleader with bench access at the 2010 finals. He looked better than anybody else could in that gray Marks & Spencer waistcoat, after all.
Hasta la vista, Becks
Manchester could no longer contain Brand Beckham's glamour and ambition. The empire was taken continental with what now looks to be a bargain deal for Real in the summer of 2003 -- for just £20 million they had a merchandising man's dream in their midst. Beckham the player converted himself into a willing workhorse to serve the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and Raul, always leaving his stardom outside the sideline. And in true redemptive style, his return after being put out in the cold by Fabio Capello inspired a title in his 2006-07 signoff season.
Coming to America
Even when cleaning boots and toilets as a teenager at United's training ground, The Cliff, there was always something rather Hollywood about Beckham. He probably always wanted to conquer the Galaxy, too. Beckham and family certainly seemed to enjoy their Los Angeles lifestyle, even if the football career seemed somewhat unfulfilled at times. Euro-snobs think he emigrated too early, while MLS loyalists did not appreciate his desire to keep crossing the Atlantic to play on loan at AC Milan. Then there was that controversy over whether he should pick up the tab for his teammates' steaks or sit up in first class while they cramped up in coach. Still, he signed off with two straight MLS Cups and will be back to helm his Miami franchise.
This article first appeared on ESPN FC in February 2014.
John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.