| A file picture of actor Jackie Chan welcoming Real Madrid’s David Beckham after the club’s arrival in Hong Kong last Friday during their promotional tour of Asia. (AFP)
Madrid: David Beckham may have yet to pull on the famous white shirt in a competitive match, but after four friendlies on his new club’s Asian tour he is already seen as a fixture in Real Madrid’s star-studded side.
As the squad arrived back in Spain in the early hours of Monday from Bangkok Spanish media were poring over Beckham’s contribution to the four-nation tour, which brought wins over the Thai national side, a Hong Kong XI, Japanese outfit FC Tokyo and a Chinese XI.
“Beckham was the only ‘fixture’. He was the only regular in the four games,” said Marca sports daily. “David Beckham finished up the Asian tour as the player most used by (coach) Carlos Queiroz,” said the paper, noting Beckham had played 301 minutes of a possible 360. “The Englishman appears to be the ‘galactico’ (superstar) who has taken the least time to fit in to the team.”
Beckham, whose transfer from Manchester United has been regarded in some quarters as a marketing ploy to boost Real’s global presence, particularly given the adulation which surrounds his visits to Asia, scored his first goal in Real’s colours in Tuesday’s win over FC Tokyo.
“Beckham’s performances matched expectations,” noted Marca, which believes the midfielder appears to have taken to his new environment like a duck to water.
AS daily echoed that sentiment, noting that “Beckham shone in attacking play and helped out with defensive duties.”
For Marca, however, if Beckham is the icing on a very rich Madrid cake it sees Frenchman Zinedine Zidane as the primary influence over the side — save for the Tokyo match when he was rested.
“Madrid won under the Frenchman’s command,” said Marca, which hailed what it dubbed “Zidane Team.” “Real dance to Zidane’s rhythm. As always, he has been majestic,” the daily drooled.
On the potential downside for Real is that they now have to reacclimatise to Europe with a fortnight to go before the start of the domestic season.
Already the club have to deal with niggling injuries. Portuguese midfielder Luis Figo, who has switched to the left to incorporate Beckham, sustained a minor injury in the Hong Kong match, and Brazilian striker Ronaldo likewise missed the Thai encounter with a strained left leg muscle.
Financially the tour was an undoubted success, with the club banking 10 million euros ($11.28 million) in appearance money for the four exhibition games, while the exposure on television will ensure a major boost in the sales of club merchandise.
But although they played some eye-catching football during the tour, Real also managed to score some spectacular own goals.
The trip was littered with public relations gaffes that led to allegations of arrogance against the team and its directors from the local press. The team disappointed thousands of fans in Hong Kong by cancelling a training session because of tiredness, only for several players to be spotted later in the island’s most popular night clubs. Real also appeared over an hour late for an open session, and Chinese officials were left bewildered when the team left a dinner function after only 20 minutes.
There must also be serious doubts as to the value of such an exhausting tour ahead of what is set to be another marathon season for most players at the club.
Many players hinted that they would have preferred to have prepared for the forthcoming season back in Spain or at a low-profile training camp.
The endless round of publicity engagements and the restrictions on the players’ freedom of movement as team hotels were laid siege to by fans inevitably took their toll on the patience of many.
“We can’t deny that the tour has been very tiring and we will look forward to going home,” said fullback Michel Salgado.