LONDON – The England coach was pulling away after a training session when suddenly David Beckham asked the driver to stop.
Beckham stepped out of the coach and signed autographs for two fans he had missed earlier.
Sometimes it is the small things that define a person.
Sorry Jose, but the real Special One is David Beckham.
There is very little to dislike about Beckham, who announced his decision to retire at the end of the French season.
People deride his accent and say he is thick, yet to the best of my knowledge Albert Einstein could not score with a 30-meter free kick. Beckham is so thick he played a major role in securing the 2012 Olympic Games for London, his easygoing, friendly manner and charm impressing the IOC decision-makers.
I believe that 30 minutes in Beckham’s company would convince anyone that he is a natural-born nice guy.
Yes, he is good looking beyond belief; yes, his charisma ensures that when he walks into a room he immediately becomes the center of attention whoever else is present.
Lionel Messi may be the most talented footballer on the planet, but no player has had the worldwide popularity of Beckham, which transcended the sport. Amid all this he remains an unassuming guy who has set a new standard in media cooperation.
Beckham may not have been an all-time great player, but he was an all-time very good. His timing has always been spot-on and at 38 he wanted to retire at the top — he may have only played a cameo role with Paris Saint-Germain, but he still collected a Ligue 1 medal — rather than drift off into the sunset next season.
You don’t win 10 national titles in four different countries plus the Champions League with Manchester United without being a bit special.
You don’t win an England outfield record 115 caps by just being handsome. You don’t become the footballer who is the most lucrative commercially over the past 15 years by just having a brilliant agent. You don’t captain your country for six years and score in three World Cups by luck.
There were lows, notably his red card against Argentina at France 1998 World Cup, and many blamed Beckham for England’s World Cup exit.
Three years later, England seemed destined for a playoff against Ukraine for the right to go to the 2002 World Cup. They were trailing Greece 2-1 in the final qualifying tie when, three minutes into stoppage, time England was awarded a free kick.
Commentating for Sky Sports, Martin Tyler said as the England captain placed the ball: “With players like David Beckham you do feel there are certain moments of destiny. . . “
Seconds later Beckham scored the free kick that sent England to Japan and South Korea. Destiny called and Beckham answered the telephone.
Beckham made the absolute most of his ability (are you listening Wayne Rooney?), staying behind after training to practice free kicks.
Not blessed with the pace a wide player usually needs, Beckham worked tirelessly on his ability to pass over seemingly any distance and to cross the ball to the center-forward with an accuracy that made radar obsolete.
When he met Victoria Adams, Beckham was an up-and-coming footballer and she was a world superstar with the Spice Girls. The roles became reversed and as Posh winds down her singing career her husband is preparing for retirement, though the man she calls Goldenballs will be as busy as ever.
The Football Association is set to use Beckham as a global ambassador. Just about everyone will want a slice of Beckham, including the oil-rich Qataris who own PSG.
He has spoken about buying a MLS franchise. Beckham will remain top of commercial and sponsorship wish lists while continuing to support various charities as he has throughout his career.
More immediately, FC Lorient, which will stage Beckham’s farewell on May 26, can prepare for a media frenzy that the club, seventh in Ligue 1, will never have experienced.
THE SUCCESS of Chelsea in winning the Europa League underlined how devalued the job of the manager is at Stamford Bridge. Five out of the eight men appointed by Roman Abramovich have won a total of 11 trophies — the club may lack stability, but the silverware keeps coming.
Rafa Benitez, soon to be the ex-interim manager of Chelsea, has done a superb job in guiding what has been a team with too many disruptive elements to European success and a possible third-place Premier League finish.
Chelsea did not deserve to beat Benfica 2-1, neither did Bayern Munich deserve to lose last year’s Champions League final, but there is an inner spirit and belief in the Blues that enables them to overcome such adversity.
The former Liverpool manager was never a popular appointment, and most Chelsea fans still refuse to give the Spaniard any credit for what he has achieved.
Similarly the much maligned and ridiculed Fernando Torres, who opened the scoring against Benfica, has more goals this season — 21 — than Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney, Sergio Agüero, Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema.
Benitez’s last game in charge is scheduled to be Sunday’s visit of Everton, but there could be an unexpected mother of all finales.
The Premier League has confirmed there will be a third-place playoff match between Chelsea and Arsenal on a neutral ground if the pair ends the season with identical records.
If Chelsea draws 0-0 with Everton and Arsenal wins 2-1 at Newcastle (also Chelsea draws 1-1) and Arsenal wins 3-2, I’ll stop there), they will be level on points, goal difference and goals scored.
The playoff winner would automatically reach the Champions League group stage, the loser facing a qualifying tie.
Torres to score the winner?
Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.