David Beckham would have been “one of the great Manchester United legends” but was sold to Real Madrid because he “thought he was bigger than the manager”, and wanted a life of fame, Sir Alex Ferguson said on Monday in his new book, "My Autobiography".
Ferguson said he holds “no rancour towards David at all” but wrote that he felt he had no option but to allow the England international to leave in 2003, having become “uncomfortable with the celebrity aspect of his life”.
“The minute a Manchester United player thought he was bigger than the manager, he had to go,” he wrote. “David thought he was bigger than Alex Ferguson. That was the death knell for him.”
Nonetheless, Ferguson said it was “the right decision to let him go to Real Madrid”, and that Beckham may ultimately regret the decision to join MLS side LA Galaxy in 2007 when still capable of playing in the top European leagues.
“If he had asked my advice when he left Real Madrid for LA Galaxy, I would have told him exactly what I thought. How can you leave Real Madrid for LA Galaxy? He reinvented himself a couple of times to go to AC Milan then PSG. That’s because of his natural stamina. At the end I think he did miss the big-time football. Maybe in a couple of years he’ll look back and think that.”
Ferguson also detailed how he had decided to sell the player shortly after the famous incident that followed a 2-0 FA Cup defeat to Arsenal, when he kicked a boot that struck Beckham above the eye.
Ferguson -- who said he thought Beckham’s “application level had dropped” during the 2002-03 season -- accused the player of failing to track back for Arsenal’s second goal in the dressing room after the game.
He recalled: “He was around 12 feet from me. Between us on the floor lay a row of new boots. David swore. I moved towards him, and as I approached I kicked a boot. It hit him right above the eye.
“Of course he rose to have a go at me and the players stopped him. ‘Sit down,’ I said. ‘You've let your team down, you can argue as much as you like.’”
Speaking to journalists at a news conference to promote the book on Tuesday, Ferguson said Beckham’s relationship with Spice Girl Victoria Adams, which began in 1997, had been the turning point.
“The big problem for me: I’m a football man, he fell in love with Victoria -- that changed everything,” he said. “Being a football man, I had to think about where we were going for that.”
In the book, he claims Beckham “lost the chance to become an absolute top-dog player” due to his fascination with celebrity, but he told journalists: “I don’t think I’ve been critical of David Beckham.
“How can I argue with how he’s turned out as a human being? I thought he was a marvellous guy. When he joined us at 12 years of age, he had this fantastic ambition to be a footballer. I loved that. It was a wonderful period for Man United. He worked to the point where he became a great player.”
Ferguson said Beckham had “made it his mission to be known outside the game”, and recounted an incident in which the player had sought to unveil his latest haircut to the media.
The Scot said the midfielder arrived at training followed by a host of photographers, and had refused requests to remove a hat during both the prematch meal and the prematch warm-up.
The manager then threatened to drop him, which would have ruined his plan to reveal his new look just before kick-off.
“He went berserk,” Ferguson said, and added: "The plan was that he would keep the beanie hat on and take it off just before kick-off. At that time I was starting to despair of him. I could see him being swallowed up by the media or publicity agents.”