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18 Jun 2007 09:16
When David Beckham came off the field after 65 minutes on Sunday, he looked doomed to leave Real Madrid empty-handed.
But his teammates provided the send-off he dearly wanted with a 3-1 win over Mallorca which gave Real Madrid a record 30th Spanish league title.
Having played his final match for Real, Beckham now makes his way across the Atlantic to continue his career with Los Angeles Galaxy.
He stunned the world by announcing in January that he had signed a five-year deal, which could potentially be worth up to $250-million, to move to California.
Now with a trophy to his name, his teammates wished him bon voyage and admitted they will miss him next season.
“What he has done in the last few months goes beyond the imagination. Becks has even shocked me—in the most positive way.
He’s playing the best football of his life,” said Real striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, a former Manchester United teammate.
“I rate him so highly because he can pass the ball to me from anywhere on the pitch, so accurately and with such speed that it’s a deadly weapon against defenders.
“He helped me score so many goals in my time at Old Trafford.
Real coach Fabio Capello added his tribute.
“He was and still is a great player. Over the past two months he’s regained all his physical condition and without a doubt is one of the best players I’ve ever coached.”
Capello wasn’t always such a fan of the former England skipper.
In January, he said Beckham would never play for Real again after he announced that he had signed for LA Galaxy but the Italian coach recanted a month later.
It was a wise decision as Beckham proved decisive in Real’s run over their unbeaten final third of the season, his crosses setting up many of van Nistelrooy’s 26 goals.
The irony on Real’s magical night was that neither Beckham nor van Nistelrooy contributed very much to the victory.
Van Nistelrooy suffered a hamstring strain after 30 minutes and was taken off while Beckham was clearly still struggling with the ankle injury he sustained playing for England in their 3-0 win over Estonia 10 days ago.
He too was substituted with his replacement Juan Antonio Reyes grabbing the headlines with two goals in Real’s come-from-behind win.
But Beckham’s inability to contribute very much in his 116th and final La Liga game for Real is unlikely to overshadow the joy of adding a Spanish league winners’ medal to the six Premiership wins he enjoyed at United.
He will leave Real with a heavy heart but no regrets.
“I made my decision to leave because my contract was ending and the club was not going to renew it. But I would have loved to play two or three more years for Real Madrid,” he told his final news conference on Thursday.
“It makes me sad to be leaving, but I don’t regret my decision.”
Real fans will also reflect on the fact that Beckham brought a touch of Hollywood to the Spanish capital which extended to his last appearance at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.
Up in the VIP seats, alongside wife Victoria, were family friends Tom Cruise and his wife Katie Holmes. - Sapa-AFP
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