- Ligue 1
Giggs inspires Beckham to eye longer PSG stay
David Beckham is already envisaging playing for Paris Saint-Germain beyond the end of this season and even harbours ambitions of outlasting former team-mate Ryan Giggs.
While some doubted Beckham, 37, could still produce for PSG with the ball at his feet, many more critics scoffed at the ability of the former England captain to meet the physical challenge of European football after a five-year spell in the MLS.
However, after producing a positive answer to the first question in a 14-minute cameo against Marseille in Ligue 1 last weekend, Beckham played 86 minutes of his club's Coupe de France win over the same opponents on Wednesday, and is already looking beyond the end of his six-month deal if his fitness holds up.
"I know that I only have a six-month contract, but I really want to contribute to PSG becoming a big club," Beckham told L'Equipe. "At my age, you can't get a two or three-year deal, I just take each year as it comes. If I still feel in as good a shape as I do now, I'll continue playing."
If the one-time 'Fergie Fledgling' has been able to make an effective return to European football, five-and-a-half years after playing his last competitive game on the continent for Real Madrid, he believes it is down to the influence of Sir Alex Ferguson, who set him and cohorts such as Giggs, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes on the straight and narrow path from which they have rarely digressed.
"He taught us to respect the game, respect our bodies, and love what we do," Beckham said, before adding he could even surpass Giggs' achievement of featuring for Manchester United at 39. "For the moment, Ryan Giggs has gone the furthest. He's still playing at the highest level, and isn't showing any signs of wanting to stop. But perhaps it'll be me [who retires last]."
Utilised in "a deep-lying playmaker role", as Beckham himself described it, against Marseille, the former Los Angeles Galaxy man proved a more than adequate replacement for the suspended Marco Verratti, alongside the energetic Blaise Matuidi.
"I liked the way we played against Marseille, with Blaise next to me. He runs so much that, for an old player like me, it's great to have a young player like him next to you," said Beckham, who feels his ever-diminishing pace does not mean he cannot play on the right side of midfield in the role in which he made his name.
"I think I could still play on the flank if necessary. Throughout my career, I've been a wide playmaker rather than a winger. Even in my younger years at Manchester United, I was never a winger, but rather someone who worked out wide and crossed the ball. My game has always been based around passes and crosses," he said.
Despite the promising start to his PSG career, Beckham the global icon and marketing man's dream remains the overriding image many in France are struggling to shake off. That perception was merely enhanced by Beckham's appearance at one of his major sponsor's shops on the Champs-Elysees alongside Zinedine Zidane on Thursday, which provoked a large and excited crowd of fans.
"If I can help sell a lot of shirts, no problem, all the better! It's great to see people wearing my shirt. In the majority of clubs in which I've played, I've heard the same thing: that I'm just there to sell shirts. It was like that at Manchester United, at Real Madrid and the Los Angeles Galaxy. I'm very proud that so many people buy my shirt, but I can also still play football a little bit, I assure you," Beckham said.
The same can be said of his PSG team-mates, who have already impressed a man who played alongside the likes of Zidane, Ronaldo and Luis Figo at Real Madrid, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the top of Beckham's list of favourites.
"I'm not surprised, but some of the talent shown by certain young players astounds me sometimes in training. There's a quite incredible mix of young players and great, more experienced players, like Ibra. At a big club, it's difficult to get all the players feeling the same hunger, the same desire to win. Ibra's a good example. He thinks football, he lives football, but he still works hard and wants to win all the time. When he loses a game in training, his face drops. It's impressive," Beckham said.
"Before I came here, I knew him as a great player, having seen him play in some of the biggest clubs in the world, but I didn't know him as a person and a team-mate. Now, I do. I've only been at the club three weeks, but I've not met many players in my career who are as professional as Zlatan."
Beckham also laughed off suggestions Ibrahimovic's post-Christmas dip in form was due to the former AC Milan forward sulking at no longer having the limelight all to himself.
"I think that he doesn't care. He just wants to play and win. Players at that level don't care about ego. They don't want to be the centre of attention, they want to win trophies. It's as simple as that," he said, before looking ahead to his likely return to the Champions League in the second leg of PSG's last 16 tie with Valencia next week.
"I've been lucky enough to win the Champions League, and it's one of the most special things I've achieved in the game," he said. "When you lift that trophy, it's a unique moment. I don't want to talk about winning the Champions League again, because it's much too early, but the simple fact of playing in it again, after seven years away, is incredible."