SPIRO BLOG: France braced for Becks bow
By M. Spiro
David Beckham’s scriptwriters have got it right again: the Englishman is poised to make his debut in PSG’s most important fixture of the season, injecting extra intrigue into Sunday’s Classique, as Matthew Spiro explains.
So, after the speculation, the hype, the press conference, the individual training sessions, the collective training sessions, the grinning in the stands of the Mestalla, the family visit… the waiting is almost over, at last.
On Sunday, some 66 years after George Tadman’s first historic foray, David Beckham will become the 27th post-war Englishman to play in France’s top flight.
Whether Becks will be more Chris Kiwomya (7 games, no goals for Le Havre) than Glenn Hoddle (69 matches, 27 goals for Monaco) remains to be seen. Most people will be expecting a Ray Wilkins-type contribution from the 37-year-old, who is, after all, in the twilight of his career and has signed for just five months. ‘Butch’ was the last Rosbif to grace the PSG shirt, playing ten times back in 1987-88 and leaving few lasting memories.
Beckham, however, may end up leaving a far more significant trace in PSG’s history. He has already hinted strongly that he wishes to play a central part in the project for a longer period. Sunday’s performance against the old foe Marseille, assuming he does get the playing time expected, will provide an early indication as to whether Beckham still has it in him to be a player – and not just an ambassador – for Paris next season too.
With Marco Verratti suspended, Thiago Motta injured, and the trio of Mathieu Bodmer, Momo Sissoko and Adrien Rabiot out on loan, it’s a good job Beckham is there. Carlo Ancelotti does not have many other options in central midfield. Either Clément Chantôme – disappointing in the defeat at Sochaux – will start again alongside Blaise Matuidi, or, as now seems more likely, we face the enticing prospect of seeing the former England skipper make his full Ligue 1 debut in what is PSG’s biggest home match of the season.
Beginning his Parisian fling in a tense, high-octane Classique against OM’s tough-tackling duo of Joey Barton and Alaixys Romao is hardly a cadeau for the new grand-père de la Ligue 1.
OM, make no mistake, will be desperate to crash Beckham’s Parc des Princes party. The southerners are not enjoying PSG’s rise under their Qatari owners – especially as it has come at a time when they are unable to compete, on a financial level at least – and they know that Sunday provides the perfect chance to cock a snoop at their capital rivals.
According to Friday’s edition of L’Equipe, PSG’s monthly wage bill (reported by the sports daily as €5.5m a month) dwarfs that of OM (a reported €2.2m). But the fact is that Marseille are competing on the pitch this season and will move to within two points of PSG if they can win.
Ancelotti’s men have not yet managed to shake off Lyon or Marseille in the title race, and they go into the weekend’s contest on the back of a worrying 3-2 defeat at Sochaux. Meanwhile, the Mediterranean side are buoyant after their last-gasp win over Valenciennes. The stakes are high, the pressure is on and the spotlight will be on one man in particular.
Beckham, of course, wouldn’t want it any other way.