There may be no athlete in history harder to assess purely as a player than David Beckham. An undeniably talented player, 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. While there certainly are similarities to Beckham and Michael Jordan’s careers, the inherent differences between soccer and basketball render any on-field comparisons moot. 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 11 interconnected parts whose every individual move greatly impacts the others.
And, ultimately, his ability to make his teammates better and serve them up easy chances was what made him one of the greatest players of this era. He has always been a relentless worker on and off the field, playing precise and intelligent balls from his customary right midfield spot during the run of play while also being deadly on set pieces. While taking on players one-on-one was never his strong suit, his ability to simply pass his way out of these situations more than made up for it.
After Beckham’s retirement announcement yesterday, now is a fitting time to look back at each of his career stops and ask ourselves the question: How Good Was David Beckham, Really?