The Spanish secretly love Beckham too
David Beckham was roundly booed when he was booked for dissent in Seville on Wednesday but most of the local fans had their tongues firmly in their cheeks given there is a good deal of affection in Spain for the former Real Madrid midfielder.
His feat in equalling Bobby Moore’s England outfield appearance record of 108 is impressive to the Spanish, whose most-capped non-goalkeeper is Beckham’s former Real colleague Raul with 102, followed by Fernando Hierro on 89.
“Beckham is a real gentleman and definitely one of England’s all-time greats,” said Manuel Conde, 27, an unemployed Real fan from Cordoba.
“He always gives everything in the matches and he’s the complete player. It would have been better if he’d stayed in Madrid,” he added.
“Beckham is very handsome and he is playing well in Milan,” said a beaming Ana Sanchez Bernal, a 20-year-old sports science student from Seville and a striker on a local ladies’ soccer team.
Real-supporting student Fernando Pinelo had a more down-to-earth view of the Beckham phenomenon but was nonetheless full of praise.
“He’s not really a football player, more of a merchandising tool,” the 27-year-old said while sipping a beer in a bar near the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium after Spain’s 2-0 win.
“Maybe as a player he’s not one of the best anymore but I like him as a person,” he said. “He’s always very generous with the fans.”
My former colleague Simon Baskett, who covered Beckham during his four years at Real, once described him as Bobby Moore, Princess Diana and Paris Hilton all rolled into one.
Although he struggled with Spanish, never advancing much beyond his two favourite phrases “impresionante” and “muy bueno,” it seems he is one English visitor to Spain who is widely remembered with fondness.