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David Beckham’s work ethic on the training field is practically legend. He has long been known to be one of the first players out onto the training pitch and one of the last to leave.
I have been fortunate to see him train several times, twice at Manchester United and this would be the second time seeing him train at Real Madrid. On this day it would be the same. Once Capello ended the session just about the entire team left the pitch for the locker room, but a few stayed. Ruud van Nistelrooy, Zidane, David Beckham, and one or 2 training staff members. They spent the next 20 to 30 minutes hitting free kicks. It seemed like it was mostly for fun but when you are lucky enough to be with 3 players of this caliber having fun, and trying to outdo each other with free kicks….it was quite amazing to be standing where I was at that moment.
The next day I was a guest at the Bernebeau to see the first team play Valencia. It would be an interesting match because I would see two teams under pressure. Although the match would not quite determine La Liga champion, it was a must win for both teams for whoever lost would have no mathematical chance of winning the league. Clearly, on paper, Real Madrid was the better team but Valencia were playing good football at this point in the season, and Real Madrid were not.
Real Madrid went ahead in the 18th  minute by way of an impressive all-one-touch build up followed by a
truly amazing strike by Ruud van Nistelrooy. In the 53rd a cross from Jaoquin to Morientes mad e it 1-1. At this point in the match, Real Madrid struggled to get back in the match. They had trouble getting near Valencia’s penalty area and were scrambling to keep Valencia out of their own.
At a relatively quiet point in the match, the Real Madrid fans, for some reason, start cheering. Puzzled, I asked one of the trainers why. He simply pointed downward, to the corner of the field, just beyond the bench, where David Beckham had started warming up.     
This really surprised me. See, by this point in time, the news had broke around the world of David’s shocking decision to leave Madrid and head for Los Angeles and the LA Galaxy. Because of this he had been dropped from the line-up. Capello, in not so many words, said….You want to leave Real Madrid….Fine….We have to pay you, but we don’t have play you. I believe that Fabio Capello was not being vindictive but, as a coach, if you’re a building a squad for the future, why figure in players that will not be around.
It was David Beckham’s professionalism, commitment, and legendary work ethic on the training field that left Capello little choice but to put him back into the squad. According to the academy trainers I was with, after being dropped from the squad, he didn’t fight with Capello, he didn’t complain to the press. He respectfully understood and accepted his coach’s decision.  Many millionaire superstars would have just coasted in training and collected  their paychecks. But not David. He worked just as hard as he always had.
Then one of the academy trainers told me something that amazed me. He said, that of all the big name players at Real Madrid, including the Spanish players, David Beckham was without question, the single best example to Real Madrid’s young academy players. My respect or David Beckham has always been high…ever since seeing him train at Man U, but it was raised to an entirely different level after hearing all of this. But it was about go even higher.
It was these same reasons that he was a favorite with the Real Madrid fans. He always worked hard, he always gave his best. I would have guessed that because he chose to leave Real Madrid, the fans would turn their backs and resent him and, if anything, boo him when he came off the bench to warm up…not cheer.
They cheered even louder when Capello sent the signal for David to stop warming up. He was going in. Long story short….he simply changed the game.  
In the 72nd minute, Fabio Canavaro, from the right back position is played a ball from Casillas, deep in his own corner, and with two touches plays the ball wide for David who has just checked to him out by the touchline. David, turns with one touch of the outside of his right foot, takes one look up field to see Robhino sprinting forward, but with 2 Valencia defenders one either side if him. With his second touch, and the ball still moving, he d drives a 60 yard ball that drops right onto the foot of  Robihno. A few inches to the left or right and the


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defenders have it. A few inches to short and the ball is behind him. The only place to play this ball where the flying Brazilian could keep it was exactly where David had put it.  To see it live was something I will never forget. I remember just shaking my head, saying to myself “How the….
Less than  minute later, Sergio Ramos, from inside the center circle plays a switching ball to David who is just inches from the far touchline, an just over 20 yards out from goal. The ball is hit just a bit to high and he gets fouled by the Valencia defender who tries to stop him from winning it. All players have weaknesses and David Beckham is no different, with heading and defending being two of his. As the play was happening, I vividly remember thinking how unusual it was to see him go up for a ball so strongly. It was as if he was playing this last 20 minutes of his life. It was as if he knew full well how most fans felt about him and he owed it to them to repay them with everything he had.
As he stood behind the ball is his trademark hieroglyphic pre-strike stance a hush came over the crowd, as it often does just before he hits a free kick. With laser-guided precision David finds the head of a heavily marked Sergio Ramos who, in the air, strongly holds off his defender just enough to glance the ball into the back of Canizares’ net. The stadium erupts. He had repaid the fans faith.
In the 93rd minute, a fan jumps over the sign board and sprints on to the field…..with security in heated pursuit. He heads straight for Becks, hugs him as he says something and hands him his shirt with something hand-written on it. David, composed, as if it were a regular occurence, puts his arm around the fan and takes a moment to say something before 3 security personnel haul him off the field. I find it interesting that of all the starts in that galaxy that he could have run to, such as Roberto Carlos, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Robihno, Fabio Canavaro, Guti, Raul……it was Beckham he sought out.
See what a great work ethic can get you? Something far more important that money…..Respect.

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