Authors: David Beckham
To Victoria, Brooklyn and Romeo
The three people who always make me smile
My Babies Forever
To Mum and Dad: without your love and guidance there wouldn't be a story here for the telling.
Love to the family, especially Lynne and Joanne, Colin, Georgina and Freddie, Nan and Grandad, Tony and Jackie, Louise, Haydn, Liberty and Tululah, Christian and Lucy.
To my school friends, my pals from boyhood and my Ridgeway team-mates: I've not forgotten any of you.
To the friends I've been lucky enough to find during a career in professional football, including Gary, Phil, Ryan, Nicky and Scholesy. And special thanks to Dave, Terry and Steve for your company, advice and more in recent years.
To Andrew and Charles; Caroline and Jo.
To everyone at HarperCollins, including Michael, Tom, Jane and David, for their patience and support. Particular thanks to my co-writer Tom, for jogging my memory and helping me find the words I needed.
To the team at SFX: Sam, Simon, Andy, Andy, Matt, Helene, Jamie and everyone else. Thanks for making the impossible possible.
To my mentor and friend, a father figure for me: Tony. I know you'll be surprised reading this but you're an amazing man who I had to thank specially for having helped make such amazing things happen for me.
Thanks to all the coaches and managers, particularly Stuart Underwood, Malcolm Fidgeon, Eric Harrison, Sir Alex Ferguson and Sven-Goran Eriksson, who've lit up my time in the game we love: you have my gratitude, respect and admiration.
Thanks, as well, to all the great players I've been privileged to play alongside for Manchester United and England. Whatever I've done has only been possible because of the talent, commitment and inspiration of the other ten.
And finally, thanksâ
âto all my new team-mates at Real Madrid who've helped me settle in so quickly as our adventure together gets underway.
The rest of the world says America isn't interested in soccer. I'm not so sure. Every time I visit, I see kids playing in parks and on school and college campuses everywhere. Whenever I turn on the television, it seems there's a game being transmitted from England's Premiership, Spain's La Liga, Italy's Serie A or one of the South American leagues. My old club, Manchester United, played matches in front of capacity crowds coast to coast on their 2003 Summer Tour.
Baseball, Football, Ice Hockey and Basketball are the established team sports in the States, I know. Those sports have their own history and traditions, their superstars and millions of knowledgeable fans. I get the feeling, though, that soccer's time is about to come. Team USA showed how much raw talent there is here at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Their 3â2 win over Portugal was one of the most impressive performances of the entire tournament. The national women's team has long been one of the best in the world. I found out all about them first hand when I joined the squad for a training day, organized by adidas, last summer. There's a buzz around soccer in the States that points towards a very exciting future. Not interested? I'd say the rest of the world had better watch out.
I've been lucky to have been a pretty regular visitor to America since I was a boy. Time enough to get to know a country that I've grown to love. I have snapshots of wonderful moments locked away in my memory: a teenage soccer tournament in Texas in the late eighties; watching my wife-to-be Victoria onstage at Madison Square Garden with the Spice Girls in the nineties; presenting an award at the MTV Awards Night in Los Angeles last summer. We've had fantastic family holidays here, too, with our sons Brooklyn and Romeo.
If I could take one aspect of American life back to England with me,
it would be this country's sense of patriotism: the feeling of a whole nation united under one flag. Maybe the pride Americans take in their country is one of the reasons why sports stars here seem to enjoy a level of respect that's not always the case in Europe. Heroes of mine like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Andre Agassi and Michael Johnson have been pushed onto greater achievement, I'd say, because they know they've got the unqualified support of the whole country behind them when they go into action.
Those sporting greatsâand the rappers who are the soundtrack to my days and nights, too, for that matterâhave taken advantage of being born and raised in the land of opportunity. The American Dream is founded on the same principles as my own: if you work hard enough, there never needs to be a limit on how far life can take you. I was born loving soccer and, thanks to my parents, team-mates, school teachers and coaches, I've been able to experience some amazing things over the past 28 years.
Both Feet On The Ground
is the story of how that happened: playing for a decade at the club I supported as a boy; captaining my country at soccer's biggest tournament, the World Cup; and, now, beginning a new journey with the most successful team in the history of the game. Alongside my career, I've got a tale of the heart I want to tell as well: a love affair that's given me the marriage and family that make David Beckham feel complete.
Opportunity; hard work; the love of my wife and family. I hope it's a story that every American will be able to recognize. Even if this one's written by a very English guy. I hope you'll enjoy it.
Anybody who's ever played soccer has been inside these dressing rooms. Scuffed tiles on the floor, the smell of disinfectant drifting up from around your ankles. Lines of narrow grey lockers for which you need your own little padlock, their doors stiff from years of being slammed shut a few minutes before kick-off, and one or two missing altogether. Benches in rows so close you'd struggle to slump down opposite a team-mate after a game. One locker door is hanging open at the far end: mine. In the gloom of the dressing room, the brilliant white of the Real Madrid shirt hooked over it is luminous, like a spotlight's been trained on it. Shorts and socks are folded neatly beneath on the bench. I'm all alone. I can hear muffled conversations going on at the far end of the room, around the door I'd come in. I take my time getting changed, folding my clothes up next to the uniform that's been left for me. A half-open door leads out to the training field. Beside it, there's a full-length mirror bolted to the wall. I look the bloke in the mirror up and down. The all-white Real strip seems to make me look big. Makes me feel big.
This is a uniform and a half
. I catch the sound of excited voices. Suddenly I'm aware that I'm looking into my future. There's a rush of satisfaction, nerves stood on end.
In fact, we'd been here, in Madrid, nearly 24 hours; long enough for the Beckham family to begin a new life. My Manchester United contract had expired on the last day of June and I'd signed my name at the
Bernabeu on the first day of July. Today, July 2, the Real adventure has begun.
We're all going to be part of what will happen here: I've been transferred to a new club and new country but it's the family who are moving to Spain. I wanted us together to see what we were letting ourselves in for. And, to be honest, I needed the support. The excitement and tension had been building up for nearly a month ahead of these two days in Spain. I knew from the moment we touched down at half past one on Tuesday afternoon that every minute was going to matter. Having my family with me meant that Madridâthe city and Realâwould get the right first impression of me: a soccer player who's a husband and father. Romeo, still only nine months old, stayed in England with Victoria's parents, but I had Victoria with me, Brooklyn too. And my mum, who'd agreed to the job of finding some fun for a four-year-old when he got fed up with what Mummy and Daddy were doing.
Nervous? I needn't have been. Whatever doubts and worries I'd brought with me were blown away within a minute or two of climbing into the car that Real Madrid sent to collect us. Six motorcycle policemen surrounded us. Fine: a few blue lights and sirens always make Brooklyn's day. And then we nosed out onto the highway. It was like a scene out of
The French Connection
: we barreled down the outside lane, then across into the inside lane, then back outside again. Other traffic was left to fend for itself. The paparazzi kept up as best, and as dangerously, as they could, in their cars and on their motorbikes. The schedule had my first stop as the hospital where I was due to have my medical. If we did crash, at least I was headed towards the right place. It wasn't until much later in the day that I realized it wasn't just the police and the press: everybody in Madrid drives like they're chasing pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix.
When I'd first spoken to Real, I'd thought it was only fair to let them know I was a bit uncertain about the idea of moving to another country with my wife and my children. Would I feel settled enough to be single-
minded about my soccer? I knew I'd have to be if I was going to make a success of a career with the club. I could hardly believe how understanding they were. None of my concerns came as a surprise to them, probably because in Spain family life is really important to everyone.
âYour family must be as happy here with us as you are, David.'
They took it for granted that they'd try to help us feel at home. Victoria and Brooklyn and Mum were whisked away to look at some properties that Real's people thought we might be interested in. I wished I could have gone with them but I knew there'd be time for me to join in with the house hunting later. While they headed off to the suburbs, I had an appointment at La Zarzuela Hospital with Real's club doctor, Senor Corral.
We galloped through the medicalâcardiovascular, biomechanics, blood, urine, electro cardiogram, x-rays and scansâwith the various specialists. Then Senor Corral got his hands on me for a physical examination. He was particularly interested in a left metatarsal and a right scaphoid bone. We were done and dusted in just over two hours. A cameraman from Real Madrid's television station followed us up and down the corridors of the hospital before getting the door shut in his face each time I went into a clinic for a particular test. Everyone seemed to be grinning from ear to ear: the specialists, the staff, the other patients, the cameraman with the black eye. Could we have a photo taken? Could we have an autograph? It all seemed very relaxed. The doctors had been given my complete medical records from fifteen years at Old Trafford and I'm sure they'd done their homework. Dr Corral himself gave the impression of knowing exactly what he was looking for. And was happy enough when he found it. Someone told me afterwards what he'd told the waiting press:
âDavid esta como nuevo. Fisicamente esta perfecto.'
He reckoned I was in half-decent shape, then. And that my pen hand was up to signing on Real's dotted line. I went to the hotel, the Tryp
Fenix, to meet up with Victoria, Brooklyn and Mum. I think the fans who'd started to gather outside the Fenix were as excited about Victoria as they were about the new soccer player in town. She seemed tense, though: she'd been driven round the new city, looking for somewhere to call home. What we were about to take on had started to sink in. Me and Brooklyn had time for a little kickabout on the terrace of our suite. I wonder how much of all this he'll remember once he's older.
The cars came back at five o'clock to take us to the Bernabeu. The stadium was just a short drive up the main road through the early evening traffic: Real have built their home ground on Madrid's equivalent of Fifth Avenue. I'd been there before, of course, as a Manchester United player but, as we swung in through the gates, I didn't recognize much. The place was a building site: cranes arching in from the road, diggers and dump trucks bumping along between the piles of supplies. JosÃ© Angel Sanchez, Real's Marketing Director, told me the club were having to remodel the stand on the side of the ground where the players come out:
âWhen Santiago Bernabeu built this stadium in the forties, he put the presidential suites in the stand opposite the one with the players' facilities. It was supposed to say: our boardroom won't ever be in competition with our dressing room. Now, though, UEFA Champions League regulations say we have to have both together.'
We went upstairs to the club offices. Nothing to do with the climb, but I felt a little breathless. And held Victoria's hand a little tighter. I think we must have come up the back way because we suddenly turned a corner and there we were: a corridor, heads poking out of doorways, half a dozen blokes in suits shifting from foot to foot. It looked like any suite of offices in any modern block anywhere in Europe. All very simple. Nothing grand, nothing flash. I liked that: Real saved the big impression for out on the field. I was excited to be there. I could tell, as people came up to shake hands and be introduced, that they didn't mind me knowing they were excited about it too.
JosÃ© introduced me to the Director of Football, Jorge Valdano; probably the man most responsible, along with the President, for bringing me to Madrid. He had a presence about him and a great smile. I don't know how old Senor Valdano must be but he's still got the build and the energy of the international player he once was. I'd fancy my chances in a running race: I wouldn't be so keen on a tackle. He was one of the few people at the club who didn't speak any English, which was fine by me. The two of us were on an equal footing, weren't we? Senor Valdano showed me into the office he'd been standing outside. Carlos Queiroz stood up from behind the Head Coach's desk. It was a surprise to see him. I knew all about Madrid having released Vicente del Bosque. I also knew Carlos had left Manchester United to replace him, and how good Carlos was at his job. But I hadn't realized he'd be at the Bernabeu already. It was an odd moment, a reassuring moment.
Who's following who around here?
We had a hug. We'd see each otherâtwo new boysâfor pre-season at the end of July.
Right now, they were ready to show me around my office. We all trooped back downstairs, with JosÃ© leading the way and doing his best official Real tour guide impression: âAnd this is where the tours never go,' he said, swinging open the door to the home dressing room. On every locker door there was an image, bench to ceiling, of the Real player it belonged to. For a moment, it made me feel like an opponent again, seeing them all, almost life-sized around the walls: Raul, Figo, Ronaldo, Zidane, Roberto Carlos and their team-mates. What was it going to be like, playing alongside them instead of against them? We moved through and out into the tunnel. I could remember standing here back in April, itching to get started. It felt the same now.
âJosÃ©? Is there a ball anywhere? I can't wait.'
One appeared. I gave it to Brooklyn to carry and I walked out into a narrow strip of sunlight by the touchline, Victoria beside me. It was getting late: shade stretched away from us across the low curve of the field. It was just our own private party in the place. We had the Bernabeu
to ourselves: the stands around us banked like mountain sides, the building work behind us finished for the day. I glanced at Mum. Three months ago, she'd been sitting over there in the far corner, watching me play for United, all her instincts telling her I'd be back to play for Madrid. I headed off towards the penalty area.
âCome on, Brooklyn. Let's score a goal.'
We kicked the ball between us for a minute or two. He seemed tired, a bit distracted. This wasn't Old Trafford. I looked back at Victoria. She was watching Brooklyn. Then she let her glance stray away and around the ground. I thought I knew what she was thinking. This was a time to be brave and I'd found the right girl for that. I caught her eye: a little smile. And then JosÃ© was saying:
âShall we go back inside?'
There was a stir backup in the offices. It was time for what we'd come here to do. Senor Perez had arrived. We'd spoken on the phone but this was the first time I'd met the President of Real Madrid. In Spain, the top man at a soccer club is elected by the club's supporters. Senor Perez has a huge building company, one of the biggest in Europe. He's President of one of world soccer's great powers. But he didn't seem to need any of that hanging round his neck like a badge. The really big men have a certain humility about them. You can tell how important Real's President is, and how highly he's thought of, from the respect he's shown by the people around him. He'd never tell you about those things himself. He welcomed me to the Bernabeu and made a point of welcoming Victoria, Brooklyn and Mum to Madrid.
We went through to the boardroom. Everybody from the club was gathered along one side of a long, slightly curving table. They shuffled for a view while Mr and Mrs Beckham and Senor Perez sat down on the other side, the three of us bunched up towards one end. I had the President on my left, Victoria on my right. The paperwork was waiting, laid out in front of us: two neat sets on the pale oak table top. Victoria had given me a beautiful new pen to sign with before we'd left England;
she'd also chosen one for the President. Maybe before we sat down would have been the time to give Senor Perez his present. But before we could do anything, he had reached across the table and picked up a ballpoint pen that had been left over from a previous meeting. Ink's ink, I suppose. He signed. I signed. Brooklyn scooted along behind our chairs, my mum not sure whether she ought to try to catch him. No chance of this all getting too serious, then.
Now we were standing again, a dealâand the writingâdone. Senor Perez unwrapped his gift. He smiled:
âI'll keep this safe until we sign your next contract. Thank you.'
I smiled too. I'd heard almost the same choice of words once before: Alex Ferguson talking to a twelve-year-old United hopeful. Here I was now, 28 and England captain, excited and expectant and nervous all over again.
âYou're welcome, Mr President. Thank you. Thanks to everyone. It's great to be here. I'm really happy.'
Happy wasn't the half of it. You can never know how the big moments are going to feel until you're in them. And it was only now I really understood just how significant this particular moment was.
Back at the Tryp Fenix, we were expected for dinner. It's the hotel where Real's players meet up before home games. They'd set up a private dining room downstairs. I'd joined Real Madrid: this evening was to celebrate that with the people who'd made the transfer happen. My management team, SFX, and a handful of people at the heart of Real's organization: our mate, JosÃ©; Jorge Valdano; Pedro Lopez Jiminez, the President's right-hand man, and his son, Fabio; JosÃ© Luis Del Valle, the President's legal advisor. And Victoria. Mrs Beckham looked unbelievably beautiful. Charmed the room, too. Made the blokes she was sitting with think she cared as much about soccer as they did. Who knows? Maybe, for just that one evening, she did.
It was a lovely couple of hours. I know how tense everybody in that room had been over the past month. This was the time for them to pop
the top off a cold beer. No awkwardness, no politics, no pretensions: people who'd come to like and trust each other sitting down to a meal together. Even the formalities weren't very formal. My agent, Tony Stephens, got up to say a few words. A simple toast to great partnerships: me and Victoria and, now, me and Real Madrid. I thanked everybody for all the work they'd done: