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It was just over a year ago that Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA, asked: where is English football’s Franz Beckenbauer?

This was just as FIFA was deciding that the rotation policy was dead and igniting England’s 2018 bid. Blatter’s tone suggested he knew the answer even as he phrased the question. There was no one.

In the last week, despite the Triesman affair, or perhaps because of it, English football’s answer has been to say we have found our Beckenbauer: arise the English lion, David Beckham. There was Beckham presenting the bid book to Blatter and last weekend Beckham with the troops in Afghanistan grabbing no little media attention.

Indeed such is Beckham’s aura that, when last weekend No 10 began thinking how David Cameron may help the bid in the wake of the Triesman fiasco, Beckham came into consideration. One plan considered was the PM going to South Africa. Then advisers realised Beckham would be there. With Princes William and Harry also there, the Prime Minister turning up was felt to be overkill. Cameron, it was felt, would have to plan some other way to woo Blatter and this may involve tea and scones at No 10 after the World Cup.

And it is not just the bid team pushing Beckham. Many in the game think that way. Listen to Jamie Redknapp.

I had been asking him about the lack of a Beckenbauer and his answer was, “David Beckham has almost been the star of the show in terms of the bid. David Beckham is now doing what Beckenbauer does. And the more he does it the more he’ll enjoy it, the more he’ll learn. It’s like anything, it’s confidence. The first time you play for a football team you feel okay and then the more you do, the better you become.

“And I think it’s a bit like that for David Beckham now. He can really grow into that role because everybody knows him. There’s not a place in the world you can go without people knowing who Beckham is. No matter what he says or does his name is known. David Beckham is the one we need and he’s a good ambassador for the country.”

Warm words. Well meant. But this is where I beg to disagree. I am inclined to rephrase Lloyd Bensten’s famous put down of Dan Quayle who, during the 1988 Presidential election, had compared himself to Jack Kennedy.

“Senator,” said Bensten, “I knew Jack Kennedy, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

Beckham is no Beckenbauer. He may grow to be one but that will take some doing not only on Beckham’s part but that of English football.

Consider Beckenbauer’s role when he came to lead Germany’s successful bid for the 2006 World Cup. Yes, he had great support in particular from two key men – Fedor Radman and Horst Schmidt. They did a lot of the behind the scenes leg work. But Beckenbauer came to the job not just as a famous player but with a proven track record as administrator. He had captained West Germany to a World Cup win in 1974, then coached it to win again 1990 and was also been President of Bayern Munich.

Perhaps, the best illustration of his status came when Germany made its presentation to FIFA as the FIFA Executive met in Zurich to decide the 2006 hosts. Flanking him at the presentation in Zurich that day were Claudia Schiffer and Gerhard Schroder, then Chancellor of Germany. Neither said a word. They stood there one as a symbol of German beauty and other of German power while Franz, the Kaiser, explained why a united Germany deserved to host the World Cup. This was considered a very potent message as in 1974 it was West Germany which had hosted the event. Now a Germany, united again for the first time since the war, would be the host.

Beckham has no such comparable position with England and it is hard to see how he can get there by the time FIFA meets in Zurich in December.

This in not to say that Beckham has not a lot going for him, at least on a personal level. He showed that in spades when he recovered quite brilliantly from his personal nadir following England’s 1998 World Cup exit. Sent off in the defeat against Argentina, he was the pariah of this country. Or as the Daily Mirror put it: ten heroes, one idiot. He suffered terrible abuse from football fans when playing away from Old Trafford. This included vile comments about his wife and child that no man should be subjected to. But he recovered from all that and rebuilt his career both on and off the field.

Also everything Beckham has done so far suggests that he is a cut above previous English football heroes called in to front bids. I think of Bobby Charlton and his role in the 2006 bid. There could be no more evocative name: World Cup winner, one of football’s greats. Yet in the bid he cut a sorry figure. He just could not get his head round the political skills necessary in such bids.

I was made vividly aware of this a few days before the vote. UEFA was having its Congress and all the bid teams were there making their pitches. The South Africans had in their ranks Terry Paine, the former Southampton and England winger. He lives in South Africa and was rooting for his adopted country. He had been Charlton’s team mate in the 66 World Cup winning squad. We were all waiting by the lift in the UEFA hotel when Charlton passed by. Paine greeted him saying “Hello Robert”. Charlton passed him by as if he had never met Paine.

I asked Paine why and he replied, “Ever since I declared for South Africa he has stopped talking to me.” I could understand that Charlton was committed to England but to treat a former team mate like that just because they were now opposed seemed extraordinary, certainly not good politics. Who knows at that stage England might have had to cut a deal with South Africa to beat Germany. It did not come to that but that option could not be ruled out.

Beckham I am sure is far too shrewd to behave like that.

But the bid team must find a way of making Beckham more than just a poster boy. Bid insiders will freely tell you that Beckham is not expected to work the room. All 24 members of the FIFA Executive will happily pose with Beckham but not necessarily listen to his arguments as to why England should host 2018. His value lies in giving the bid the oxygen of publicity particularly in the British media.

This needs to be combined with a role in management which will move him nearer the position Beckenbauer had.

Here his growing role with Fabio Capello in the England World Cup dug out now that he will no longer be playing is important. This may be only a small management role but it could mark a start on that long road and a very useful one at that.

No, Mr Blatter England has not yet found its Beckenbauer, you are right. But in time, as Jamie Redknapp says, Beckham may grow into one. For that to happen, English football must find a way of making the post of its famous former players, something it has not so far managed to do.

Insideworldfootball.biz

It was just over a year ago that Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA, asked: where is English football’s Franz Beckenbauer?

This was just as FIFA was deciding that the rotation policy was dead and igniting England’s 2018 bid. Blatter’s tone suggested he knew the answer even as he phrased the question. There was no one.

In the last week, despite the Triesman affair, or perhaps because of it, English football’s answer has been to say we have found our Beckenbauer: arise the English lion, David Beckham. There was Beckham presenting the bid book to Blatter and last weekend Beckham with the troops in Afghanistan grabbing no little media attention.

Indeed such is Beckham’s aura that, when last weekend No 10 began thinking how David Cameron may help the bid in the wake of the Triesman fiasco, Beckham came into consideration. One plan considered was the PM going to South Africa. Then advisers realised Beckham would be there. With Princes William and Harry also there, the Prime Minister turning up was felt to be overkill. Cameron, it was felt, would have to plan some other way to woo Blatter and this may involve tea and scones at No 10 after the World Cup.

And it is not just the bid team pushing Beckham. Many in the game think that way. Listen to Jamie Redknapp.

I had been asking him about the lack of a Beckenbauer and his answer was, “David Beckham has almost been the star of the show in terms of the bid. David Beckham is now doing what Beckenbauer does. And the more he does it the more he’ll enjoy it, the more he’ll learn. It’s like anything, it’s confidence. The first time you play for a football team you feel okay and then the more you do, the better you become.

“And I think it’s a bit like that for David Beckham now. He can really grow into that role because everybody knows him. There’s not a place in the world you can go without people knowing who Beckham is. No matter what he says or does his name is known. David Beckham is the one we need and he’s a good ambassador for the country.”

Warm words. Well meant. But this is where I beg to disagree. I am inclined to rephrase Lloyd Bensten’s famous put down of Dan Quayle who, during the 1988 Presidential election, had compared himself to Jack Kennedy.

“Senator,” said Bensten, “I knew Jack Kennedy, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

Beckham is no Beckenbauer. He may grow to be one but that will take some doing not only on Beckham’s part but that of English football.

Consider Beckenbauer’s role when he came to lead Germany’s successful bid for the 2006 World Cup. Yes, he had great support in particular from two key men – Fedor Radman and Horst Schmidt. They did a lot of the behind the scenes leg work. But Beckenbauer came to the job not just as a famous player but with a proven track record as administrator. He had captained West Germany to a World Cup win in 1974, then coached it to win again 1990 and was also been President of Bayern Munich.

Perhaps, the best illustration of his status came when Germany made its presentation to FIFA as the FIFA Executive met in Zurich to decide the 2006 hosts. Flanking him at the presentation in Zurich that day were Claudia Schiffer and Gerhard Schroder, then Chancellor of Germany. Neither said a word. They stood there one as a symbol of German beauty and other of German power while Franz, the Kaiser, explained why a united Germany deserved to host the World Cup. This was considered a very potent message as in 1974 it was West Germany which had hosted the event. Now a Germany, united again for the first time since the war, would be the host.

Beckham has no such comparable position with England and it is hard to see how he can get there by the time FIFA meets in Zurich in December.

This in not to say that Beckham has not a lot going for him, at least on a personal level. He showed that in spades when he recovered quite brilliantly from his personal nadir following England’s 1998 World Cup exit. Sent off in the defeat against Argentina, he was the pariah of this country. Or as the Daily Mirror put it: ten heroes, one idiot. He suffered terrible abuse from football fans when playing away from Old Trafford. This included vile comments about his wife and child that no man should be subjected to. But he recovered from all that and rebuilt his career both on and off the field.

Also everything Beckham has done so far suggests that he is a cut above previous English football heroes called in to front bids. I think of Bobby Charlton and his role in the 2006 bid. There could be no more evocative name: World Cup winner, one of football’s greats. Yet in the bid he cut a sorry figure. He just could not get his head round the political skills necessary in such bids.

I was made vividly aware of this a few days before the vote. UEFA was having its Congress and all the bid teams were there making their pitches. The South Africans had in their ranks Terry Paine, the former Southampton and England winger. He lives in South Africa and was rooting for his adopted country. He had been Charlton’s team mate in the 66 World Cup winning squad. We were all waiting by the lift in the UEFA hotel when Charlton passed by. Paine greeted him saying “Hello Robert”. Charlton passed him by as if he had never met Paine.

I asked Paine why and he replied, “Ever since I declared for South Africa he has stopped talking to me.” I could understand that Charlton was committed to England but to treat a former team mate like that just because they were now opposed seemed extraordinary, certainly not good politics. Who knows at that stage England might have had to cut a deal with South Africa to beat Germany. It did not come to that but that option could not be ruled out.

Beckham I am sure is far too shrewd to behave like that.

But the bid team must find a way of making Beckham more than just a poster boy. Bid insiders will freely tell you that Beckham is not expected to work the room. All 24 members of the FIFA Executive will happily pose with Beckham but not necessarily listen to his arguments as to why England should host 2018. His value lies in giving the bid the oxygen of publicity particularly in the British media.

This needs to be combined with a role in management which will move him nearer the position Beckenbauer had.

Here his growing role with Fabio Capello in the England World Cup dug out now that he will no longer be playing is important. This may be only a small management role but it could mark a start on that long road and a very useful one at that.

No, Mr Blatter England has not yet found its Beckenbauer, you are right. But in time, as Jamie Redknapp says, Beckham may grow into one. For that to happen, English football must find a way of making the post of its famous former players, something it has not so far managed to do.

      

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