Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.
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Alex Ferguson - My Autobiography (2013)
At the end of the 2012/13 league campaign, Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement as manager of Manchester United after 27 years in the role. Leaving in a blaze of glory, with United winning the Premier League for the 13th time, he is now widely considered to be the greatest manager in the history of British football. Over a period of twenty five years, the only constant element had been the quality of the manager’s league-winning squad and United’s run of success, which included winning the Champions League for a second time in 2008. Sir Alex created a purposeful, but welcoming, and much envied culture at the club which lasted the test of time. He oversaw United’s conversion from a conventional football club to a major worldwide business enterprise, and he never failed to move with the times. It was directly due to his vision, energy and ability that he was able to build teams both on and off the pitch. He was a man-manager of phenomenal skill, and increasingly he had to deal with global stars. His relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo, for instance, was excellent and David Beckham has described Sir Alex as a father figure.
Unfortunately, Ferguson’s relationship with ‘Posh’ remains frosty. Laying into Victoria at the launch of his autobiography, the Scot was moved to say:
‘David was the only player I managed who wanted to be famous, who made it his mission to be known outside the game. The big problem for me – and I’m a football man, really – is that he fell in love with Victoria, and that changed everything’.
Whilst ‘metrosexual’ is a neologism, first coined in 1994, to describe a metropolitan and heterosexual man, living in an urban, post-industrial, capitalist culture, who typically spends a significant amount of time and money to maintain his grooming and appearance, Ferguson is a traditionalist who had first flourished in the game at a time when soccer stars earned an average wage and wives both buffed their boots and queued afterwards for the obligatory post match fish and chips. Appearing almost weekly in the national tabloid press as a new form of adrogynous star, the manager and wife were on an unavoidable collision course.
In recognising Beckham’s potential as a global branded pop-cultural phenomenon, she would eschew the prospect of soccer punditry contract work as a suitable post-retirement career, concentrating instead on developing his innate marketability in varying directions. In contrast, Ferguson who once described himself as a “football man”, a term belying his conviction that all other human activity is basically pointless, was never going to see eye to eye with his female nemesis. In 2003, there was an inevitable parting of the ways when the Beckhams moved to Madrid.
Last Update : 13/9/13
David Beckham ended his football career with Paris Saint-German in May 2013, prompting another avalanche of Becks-mania in the media and general populace. Such press attention was not unexpected in view of the coverage he had received when he left each of his former clubs, Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan, LA Galaxy, in addition to drawing time on his international career.
In marketing terms,‘Brand Beckham’ took off in 1999, the year his club Manchester United won an historic treble and he married Victoria Adams, an astute businesswoman and nondescript singer who had achieved worldwide success with The Spice Girls. Marketed by Simon Fuller, Beckham’s career diversified, ensuring his fame would never be dependent on his ball skills alone. Today, at the age of thirty eight. he remains an aspirational brand, successful at his job, good-looking, wealthy, successful, and down to earth. That’s a potent combination to sell. Brand Beckham has been channelled into three distinct strands – football, fashion and ambassadorial roles in order to ensure his continuing viability as a commercial concern. He appears a very affable and likeable man yet for millions, his success is the mystifying phenomenon of the twenty first century.
Any initial commentary on the Beckham brand must involve critical analysis of his playing skills, after all, it was his abilities on the pitch that first brought him to national and then international prominence.
Football was created many centuries ago, but the greatest players of the game were only produced in the 20th and 21st centuries. Whilst arguments may rage incessantly, the following listing suggests the most commonly favoured and respected soccer stars to be found amongst world opinion polls.
10. Lev Yashin – Dynamo Moscow and Soviet Union
Yashin is considered the greatest goalkeeper of all time. He was nicknamed the ‘Black Spider’ as he was so agile in goal. Yashin made over 150 penalty saves in his incredible career, also claiming 270 clean-sheets. He has also scored once for Dynamo Moscow.
9. Alfredo Di Stefano – Real Madrid
Di Stefano was one of the most versatile forwards ever. He sometimes slipped into a midfield role adding depth to Real Madrid when he was at the club.
Di Stefano’s stint at Madrid coincided with the greatest period in their history as they went on to win many European titles, as Di Stefano pulled the strings and finished moves. 513 career goals is not a bad tally for a versatile forward.
8. Gerd Muller – Bayern Munich, and West Germany
The greatest international goalscorer of all time, Muller averaged more than a goal per game for the Germans. His club career was nothing short of spectacular too, as he shined at Bayern. Muller ended his illustrious career with 723 goals, a tally many strikers can only dream of.
7. Bobby Moore – West Ham, and England
Moore was arguably one of the greatest defenders ever and Pele described him as the hardest defender to get past. Moore captained England to a rare World Cup triumph in 1966 and he also earned legendary status at West Ham, scoring 24 goals there. He was the European Footballer of the Year runner-up in 1970.
6. Eusebio – Sporting De Lourenco Marques, Benfica, Portugal etc.
Eusebio was the most lethal club striker of all time. He averaged more than a goal per game for many seasons at Benfica as he paved his way to legendary status. He won the Footballer of the Year award in 1965 and with 626 career goals Eusebio was the best player Portugal ever produced.
5. Franz Beckenbauer – Bayern Munich, New York Cosmos and West Germany
Beckenbauer was one of the most inspirational footballers ever. He led by example and could manage and play at the same time. He had a good goalscoring record for a defender and secured 22 trophies in his career. He won the Ballon d’Or twice in his great career.
4. Zinedine Zidane – Cannes, Bordeaux, Juventus, Real Madrid and France
Hailed as one of the greatest midfielders ever, Zidane’s dribbling and passing were better than any other footballer of his time. He may not have been the most prolific goalscorer but he was innovative in his style of play and he had a magical presence on the pitch.
He led France, Real Madrid and Juventus to many trophies and his goal in the 2002 Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen was one of the best ever. A three-time winner of the Ballon d\‘Or and a three-time runner-up for the award, Zidane is one of the greatest players of all time.
3. Johan Cruyff – Ajax, Barcelona, Netherlands etc.
Cruyff was one of the greatest and smartest players to grace the game. His tactical mindset made him a step above his opponents and he was very versatile, too. The creator of Total Football, Cruyff was a fairly prolific goalscorer and scored many high-quality goals.
He transformed Barcelona helping them become the team they are today and he also won 24 trophies as a player. A three-time winner of the Ballon d’Or, and with 401 goals to his name from midfield, Cruyff was better than most footballers.
2. Diego Maradona – Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Argentina etc.
Maradona is hailed by many as the greatest ever but finishes as runners up in this list. His personal life had its flaws but on the pitch he could do things one can only dream of.
As an attacking midfielder, Maradona scored quite a few, also leading Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986. The number 10 was retired by Napoli for Maradona’s incredible contribution to their development.
Maradona also scored arguably the greatest goal of all time, when he dribbled past almost all the England players before scoring a sublime goal in the 1986 World Cup finals.
1. Pele – Santos, and Brazil_
Many say he wasn\‘t tested in a tougher league but even if he were to be in a tougher league he\‘d have excelled as much as he did in Brazil.
Sometimes an attacking midfielder and other times a forward, Pele was the greatest goalscorer ever and I doubt anyone will score as many goals as he did.
He led Brazil to three World Cup triumphs and is also their all-time top scorer. With 1229 career goals, will there ever be a player who could score as many goals as Pele? Very doubtful.
He won trophies, he scored important goals and he never caused any major controversy. It’s safe to say that Pele was the greatest ever player to grace the game.
The Top Ten list excludes the following:
Sir Bobby Charlton
Marco Van Basten
There may be no athlete in history harder to assess purely as a player than David Beckham. Undeniably talented, his worldwide fame and subsequent transformation from a person into a brand has completely clouded people’s ability to impartially judge him purely for what he did on the field. In soccer terms. a player’s contributions on the pitch cannot be defined purely by goals and assists; more so than any other sport, the team is a group of eleven interconnected parts whose every individual move greatly impacts the others.
Ultimately, Beckham’s ability to inspire his teammates and provide them with ready made chances, defined him as one of the greatest players of his era. He was always a relentless worker on and off the field, playing precise and intelligent balls from his customary right midfield spot during the run of play whilst displaying a deadly precision from set pieces. He had no innate ability to take on players in one on one situations yet his ability to simply pass his way out of these situations more than made up for it. Nevertheless, had he been around at the time, the distinct suspicion remains that Alf Ramsey would have passed him over during the 1966 World Cup campaign. If he could ignore Jimmy Greaves, Britain’s greatest natural marksman, then Beckham’s prowess at set pieces, might also have met a simialr fate. The general feeling perpetuates that it was the star’s ‘brand awareness’ that brought him his last twenty english caps, current manager Roy Hodgson finally sealing the coffin lid on his international career two years after his final appearance in 2009. His 115 caps is a record for an outfield player and fitting testimony to his dedication and fitness regime, yet whilst his role model Bobby Moore played every minute of his 108 games, Beckham most certainly did not.
When Beckham moved to Real Madrid, he was assisted throughout this period of transition by two key people – Rebecca Loos, in her capacity as his personal assistant and SFX agent/former Australian international footballer Andy Bernal, who spoke Spanish fluently.
His wife Victoria, initially unhappy in Madrid, and wishing to resurrect her dormant recording career, had begun spending much of her time in England. Meanwhile, Beckham and his assistant were working closely together both professionally and socially, and Loos claimed that she became an “alternative wife.” In 2004, she went public claiming an affair with the soccer star. Revealing that the long separation from his wife had fueled the star’s boredom, the couple ended up spending quality time together. A four-month affair reportedly resulted and once public knowledge, Victoria Beckham was moved to unequivocably state in W magazine that the allegations had only served to make their marriage stronger. The star neither confirmed nor denied these claims, nor did he bring legal proceedings against Loos for making them. The last point is rather telling but in all honesty, I have little interest in ‘the truth’ here. The world is full of single men and women who display little respect for the sanctity of marriage by involving themselves with ‘unavailable’ partners, only to subsequently tie the knot themselves either with the said person or someone else. Loos will have convinced herself that she wasn’t committing adultery which of course, she most certainly was. In her partial defence, selling her story pre-empted the ‘News of the world’ breaking the ‘affair,’ whilst providing a contingency fund to financially compensate for her impending redundancy as the Beckhams\’ PR assistant/nanny. Suspecting she would be pilloried in the press for sullying the image of the ‘Golden boy of English football’, Loos milked her notoriety for all it was worth, subsequently branching into ‘glamour photography.’ Displaying few character traits of a ‘shrinking violet,’ she was also impelled five years later to publish photographs of herself during her first pregnancy. In yet another example of the 15 minutes of fame Andy Warhol alluded to, she would resurface in the media in 2013 to discuss her marriage, children and the question of monogamy. Her expression of regret about the manner in which she ‘sold’ her story, and the probable/inevitable resurgence of old wounds for the Beckhams, reminded me of the emotional pain endured by another high profile personality fifty years ago; only in this case, his one regrettable misdemeanour would contribute to the downfall of Harold MacMillan\‘s Conservative Government. If that wasn’t reputationally damaging enough, the reverberations of what was essentially a six month affair, would re-emerge periodically in the UK national press, reopening old wounds whilst further testing the emotional solidity of his marriage.
As the historian Dominic Sandbrook so succincly puts it in his critically aclaimed book, “Never had it so good – A history of Britain from Suez to The Beatles,’ John Profumo was a popular, modestly successful, but ultimately rather minor political figure. During the 1950’s, he had held a succession of junior ministerial posts before being made Minister for War by the Prime Minister in 1960. He was married to the well known english actress Valerie Hobson, and was a sought after figure on the Conservative circuit. An overview of the affair can be located at:
Profumo lied to the House of Commons, and as such, both deserved and accepted his inevitable political fate. Fifty years on, his withdrawal from public life would doubtless have been merely a temporary retreat before re-emergence for a full-scale redemption-by-talk-show tour, doing the flawed-but-all-too-human shtick to Larry King and Oprah Winfrey etc etc, explaining how he’d conquered his demons and how you can conquer yours, too, all with the inevitable marketing of a new self-help video, etc. It happens all the time and it makes me puke……..
John Profumo didn’t do any of that. There was no comeback, and no attempt at one. He accepted that his career was ruined and never sought public sympathy. As extraordinary as his downfall was, the aftermath was unique. On June 5th 1963 he resigned from the government, from Parliament and from the Queen’s Privy Council. Not long afterwards, he contacted Toynbee Hall, a charitable mission in the East End of London, and asked whether they needed any help. Viewed initially with grave mistrust by the locals, he started washing dishes and helping with the children’s playgroup, and he stayed for 40 years. He disappeared amid the grimy tenements of east London and did commendable works till he died. Tellingly, with the exception of one newspaper article to mark Toynbee Hall’s centenary, he never said another word in public again. His voluntary pennance in the service of the needy, whilst no doubt haunted by what had happened, was an example many of today’s miscreant politicians would do well to follow.
Throughout those years of diligent service in the East End, Profumo would await, with stoic resignation, the periodic reappearance of Christine Keeler in the ‘News of the World’ whenever she was ‘short of cash.’
I am aware of the accusations in certain quarters, that Profumo’s involvement with Keeler was merely one amongst a series of dalliances, yet his marriage endured. In view of the thousands of relationships that fail every year without anything like the public humiliation hoisted upon the Profumos, my curiosity was piqued. Answers were provided in David Profumo’s family memoir “Bringing the House down” (2006), in which the author recalls life with his parents both before and after the scandal.
On page 219, he writes:
When they returned to Chester Terrace, the world looked like a grim and crumpled place. Faced with a dark swirl of alternatives such as exile, divorce, oblivion, they decided to stay together – ‘She was very, very loyal,’ said my father. ‘Wonderful, extraordinary.’ To many, this was indeed how it seemed, though inevitably some commented that the very show of loyalty was a cynical piece of stage management; no doubt the same philophasters would have criticised my mother for abandoning her husband in his hour of need, even if his dalliances and mendacity had driven a wrecking ball through their marriage.
He goes onto describe his father’s resignation from all his club memberships, as his parents eventually became social pariahs. Unexpected support came from The Queen Mother whose frequent guest they continued to be at Clarence House.
David Profumo believes his mother continued to love her husband despite the infidelity. It was not the fling, but the protracted hurricano of relentless exposure that she could not so readily forgive. In a letter to her son, Valerie Hobson wrote:
\‘He got himself into such a frightful mess because he was shocked beyond endurance by the thought of telling me. But love, deep love, came to us through the dreadful tribulations that we shared later. We were under seige, but – perversely perhaps – those were the happiest years I ever shared with Jack.
Those years of service to the community would lead to a C.B.E. in 1975 and an enduring marriage.
Like Profumo, the Beckhams’ marriage continues. As to the exact reasons why, these are none of our business although naturally, I’ve heard cynical commentators argue that Posh would be unlikely to relinquish her lifestyle and pre-eminence in the world’s press as one half of an extremely high profile marriage, simply because of her husband’s infidelity. In any event, like millions of wives in a situation like this, she has probably realised that, whilst her husband’s periodic evasiveness over the subject is self protecting, he also genuinely can remember very little about the other woman. Given sufficient time, Rebecca Loos has blurred to the point of unrelenting fog, a subject matter upon which he unconsciously devotes no thinking time at all. In any event, what would there be to remember? His preoccupation with the demands of living in a strange country and an errant wife in England? A woman on a mission consoling him with flattery, attentiveness, and inconsequential banter? Exactly why Rebecca Loos involved herself with him in the first place, and why she should find herself on prime time television a decade later still referring to the affair, goes to the very heart of the differences between men and women. A subsequent marriage and two children, seemingly cannot erase a subject matter that still rankles; namely, that her presence in Beckham’s inner orbit and her intimacy with the star, was not sufficient to make him see the folly of his present life. In her mind, had Beckham ended his marriage, then deciding on the future direction of her life, be it with him or not, should have remained her perogative. Only he didn\‘t, and as a result, she forfeited a well paid position, though the reported fee paid for her story (between £350,000 and £750,000 depending on sources), will have eased the pain of seeking gainful re-employment.
Returning to the media once again to discuss ‘the affair’ served to reinforce the point that it was she he chose to involve himself with, even though of course, he did nothing of the sort. She chose him, as all women do. In the eyes of the public, it’s an incident in Beckham’s life that has been greatly forgotten and that is unacceptable to any woman involved in such a ‘dalliance.’ Apologising in the media regarding the manner in which she broke the news will not have rehabilitated her in the public’s mind and certainly not within the Beckham household, so what was to be achieved by it? In addition, why would her husband have countenanced such an appearance? In his case, money may have talked but for his wife, it’s a deep rooted emotional issue she cannot possibly reveal to him.
The entire validity of this ‘affair’ rested on her reported assertion that she could identify a distinguishing mark on a very intimate part of his anatomy, which may explain his reluctance at the time to initiate legal proceedings for defamation of character. It also dovetails neatly into another aspect of David Beckham and his role as a fashion icon – namely the burgeoning world of tatoos.
In America alone, tattooing is a $1.65 billion per year industry, with an estimated 21,000+ studios across ts fifty four states. At least one new shop opens every day, making tattooing the sixth fastest growing industry in the country.
Before I continue discussing the subject of tatooing, let us all agree that my own personal views are of absolutely no consequence to anyone – anyone that is, except the person I might be intimately involved with on any and every level. The first and possibly most obvious consequence of body art is that any future partner may not express positive views on the subject, in fact whatever our feelings, the sight of tatoos may wreck the relationship. Whenever the subject is raised in conversation, I never encounter ambivalence, only polarised views – for that reason alone, the sheer preponderance of tatooing surprises me.
Then there is the employment issue. The prevalence of tattoos among celebrities has been followed with a widening acceptance among members of the public, which is a sign that one day visible tattoos will be a minor concern for jobseekers. Nevertheless, intolerance to tattoos is currently strongest amongst older generations (50+), whilst the increasing prevalence of tattoos in younger people, points to a future in which body art will become largely normalised and accepted. Research findings by The University of St Andrews in 2013, suggesting that the stigma still currently surrounding tatoos, at least in the eyes of many employers, should therefore recede. As a natural corollary, there will be a likely increase in the number of potentially sympathetic tattooed hiring managers. For the present though, research suggests that employers still view tattoos as taboo and would worry about hiring someone who had the designs on show because of what customers might think.
The following link provides some very valid points for the pro-tatoo brigade and I feel they are well presented.
Owning a tatoo is not permanent, but the following link, in graphic detail, illustrates that body art removal is a far more involved process than tooth extraction; another reason for individuals to seriously consider this subject area before embarking on such a course of action.
Ultimately, an understanding of the 21st century worldwide explosion in tatooing is perhaps, not worthy of detailed analysis. Promoted heavily by key celebrities with seemingly lttle reason to subsequently regret their decision, young impressionable people have followed suit. It’s nothing new. Seventy years ago, there were bobbysoxers swooning over Sinatra, sixty years ago young men with Presley look-a-like DA hairstyles, followed ten years later by Beatleseque mop tops. We’ve had mods and rockers, glamrock, and punks. The list is endless.