Football: English Eye on Beckham's Iberian Invasion and 'Fast Food Football' BOOK REVIEW an Englishman Abroad: Beckham's Spanish Adventure by Phil Ball Published by Ebury Press 4sportsbooks.Co.UK Price: Pounds 7.69 (Save Pounds 3.30)

Article excerpt

Byline: Peter Sharkey

Michael Owen's and Jonathan Woodgate's relatively hasty departures for Real Madrid over the last few weeks have been in stark contrast to the long drawn-out affair which eventually saw David Beckham leave Old Trafford for the Spanish capital.

Officially, the transfer took place in mid-June of last year, but in truth, the irreparable split between Beckham and Sir Alex Ferguson ensured the move was probably arranged six months earlier. Phil Ball has lived in San Sebastian, on the northern Spanish coast, for 13 years and, for a man who has already written extensively about Spanish football, the arrival of Beckham at Real Madrid must have appeared like a gift.

Ultimately though, An Englishman Abroad falls between two stools; at its best when concentrating on football and directly-related matters, including the marketing aspects of Beckham's transfer, less so when delving into gossip-led or unnecessary detail.

Was Steve McManaman really pining for the 'panting of racehorse breath' while living in Madrid and is the information regarding Beckham's underpants essential when describing his Real medical? By contrast, Ball's description of Beckham's impact in La Liga and upon Spanish football is first-class, starting with his opening game when the Englishman found the net after just 126 seconds, one of only three league goals he scored all season.

Furthermore, Ball introduces the reader to 'fast-food football', a phrase he acknowledges was first used by Santiago Segurola, Spain's most influential football writer.

It defines the process whereby stars such as Beckham, Figo, Zidane and Ronaldo have been signed to satisfy the heightened expectations of fans or, to put it more accurately, to 'cater for impatient consumerism of the younger football clientele.' The phrase is equally appropriate when used to describe Real's most recent acquisitions.

Given Madrid's stated intentions of developing a global sports brand, football's marketing considerations are also well covered. …