Chris Waddle has certainly opened up a metal container of non-arthropod invertebrates with his comment that Sir David of Leytonstone wouldn't make a list of the top 1000 players who have appeared in the English Premier League. That's ninety teams maximum or 63 if you allow a matchday squad of 16, surely he would make the best 63 teams of the last twenty one years in English football?
If you take the best teams that he couldn't have improved you could list the Man City side of last year, the Arsenal invincibles, the Chelsea team that actually finished above the invincibles, the Liverpool side that won the Champions League in 2005, the Man Utd side that won the Champions League in 2008 and then you would be struggling - and that would leave another 58 teams where you couldn't find a space for him to meet the 'Waddle criteria'.
Beckham's problem is that many people overlook the pre 2007 period, the year he left Real Madrid, by focusing on the product, the former The Apprentice candidate Stuart Baggs may have thought he was a 'brand' but Beckham really was, the minute he became a spice boy he changed from footballer engaged to a celebrity to a fully fledged footballing celebrity.
Much like Prince Charles, Hermans Hermits and pickled gherkins, Becks was loved abroad much more than he ever was at home. Ask footballing fans from Madrid to Milan, Carson, California (home of the LA Galaxy) to Cagliari, they love him. He was something that us Brits crave in our sporting heroes and then moan about when it arrives, the professional with the professional attitude - incidentally this weekend another English legend will be carrying the hopes of a foreign city on his back when Toulon meet Clermont in Dublin in the 2013 Heineken Cup Final. Like Jonny Wilkinson Beckham practised and practised until routine and muscle memory allowed the sub-conscious to take over the conscious. What may have looked to begin with as simply a way of standing out from the crowd soon became a prelude to delivering a free kick or corner with the precision that other players of his generation couldn't dream of.
Beckham wasn't the most exciting right winger that United have had in the last twenty years, that was surely CR7, he wasn't the most technically gifted United player of the last twenty years (I'd suggest Giggs, Scholes, Ronaldo and Carrick were better all round players) but I doubt there are any supporters outside of Anfield, Elland Road or the Etihad who wouldn't have taken him at his peak. Even down at the Boleyn, where his effigy was strung up in 1998 after that sending-off, there was a genuine buzz of anticipation when rumours of his return to England began circulating eighteen months ago.
It's worth noting, in his week of double retirements by Man Utd alumni, that many considered Beckham's best position to be central midfield, a role given to Paul Scholes who had been, up until the intervention of Alex Ferguson, a centre forward. It would be ironic to think that Beckham was passed over for the role of central midfield player because he couldn't tackle, something Scholes wasn't exactly renowned for.
It was interesting listening to an interview with Beckham last night as I drove home. He talked about how lucky he had been to have played for so many great teams under so many great managers, he spoke of how humble he had felt to have finished twice as runner-up in the FIFA Player of The Year (1999 behind Rivaldo and 2001 behind Luis Figo) and of how privileged he was to have won as many honours as he had on the pitch. it reminded me of the old Gary Player quote 'The harder I practice, the luckier I get".