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Feb 28, 2013

Beckham full debut wins over doubters

David Beckham's full Paris Saint-Germain debut in the Coupe de France victory over arch-rivals Marseille won over the media doubters who felt the former England captain had only been signed for marketing reasons.

• Blog: Ibra at the double
• Beckham: I feel at home

Beckham, 37, lasted 86 minutes on his first start for the capital club and was influential as PSG set up a Coupe de France quarter-final with Evian.

Building on a 14-minute cameo in the 2-0 Ligue 1 victory over Marseille last Sunday, the midfielder's passing quality was to the fore. He played the glorious cross-field ball from which Zlatan Ibrahimovic earned the penalty, before the Swede then converted himself to complete his double as PSG won by the same margin as three days previously.

Beckham's display came as no surprise to Leonardo, who coached Beckham when the player was loaned to AC Milan from Los Angeles Galaxy in 2010.

The Brazilian - enjoying the vindication of Beckham's arrival - said ironically: "We only signed Beckham to pose for photos, to give press conferences and to sell shirts. Seriously, it's down to you to judge these things, you experts and extraordinary football pundits that said these sorts of things. You didn't know David Beckham before; me, I knew him."

Club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi added: "Beckham had a great match. He proved to everybody that he's still a football player and not just there for the marketing and I'm very happy with his performance in the match."

Making his first start since December 1, 2012 when he played for Galaxy against Houston, Beckham proved his stamina by chasing back to challenge Mathieu Valbuena as the game entered its closing stages. He then picked up an unwarranted yellow card after an altercation with Marseille substitute Jordan Ayew, before being substituted to a standing ovation from the Parc des Princes crowd.

PSG striker Kevin Gameiro said: "He was a bit tired after the game, like everybody in fact, and I'd love to be like him at the age of nearly 38. Playing with him is a dream come true. He's full of desire and everyone knows about his legendary right foot."

Le Parisien ran with the headline 'Beckham passes his true test', adding that the deep-lying position in Carlo Ancelotti's midfield was made to measure for England's most-capped outfield player: "Beckham played it like Beckham. He played one-touch football, sometimes two, adding fluency to the PSG midfield and he served up some delicious passes, cooked to perfection, at the right time. He was a model of sobriety, defending upright, tackling rarely and distributing his passes like an American football quarterback. "

L'Equipe were similarly impressed with Beckham's display, lauding the quality of his distribution and control of his exertions as he approaches his 38th birthday on May 2: "He didn't need oxygen or a walking frame when he was substituted, leaving the field with the memory of a harsh yellow card."

Noting Beckham's right foot has lost none of its quality, L'Equipe nevertheless signed off with reservations for the future, saying not too many lessons could be drawn from this Classique: "The lack of intensity meant not all the doubts as to Beckham's ability to withstand the rest of the Ligue 1 season, or even the Champions League last 16 second-leg tie with Valencia next Wednesday, could be lifted. But, at least on the basis of his first-half display, the Englishman proved there's still something there."

France international midfielder Blaise Matuidi is convinced Beckham has a role to play as the Ligue 1 leaders compete on three fronts.

"He's proved he's not only a great man, but also a great player. I think he'll bring a lot to the team and I hope he'll help us fulfil our objectives," he said.

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