Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

On His Knees

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

On His Knees

Article excerpt

David Beckham - unfit and badly out of form at Euro 2004 - is having to shoulder much of the blame for England's exit from the big event in Portugal.

His crucial penalty shoot-out miss and general poor form throughout the tournament have been cited as major reasons for England's failure.

Beckham insists he will stay on as England captain but he has never been under more pressure - both on and off the pitch.

There is good reason to direct plenty of flak towards Florentino Perez and Jorge Valdano, the president and sporting director of Real Madrid last season, for Beckham's troubling fitness levels at Euro 2004.

It was Perez and Valdano who directed transfer operations at the Bernabeu in the 2003/04 season, with coach Carlos Queiroz's hands tied, and Madrid were damned from the first whistle of last season when they began the campaign with a bare-bones squad.

Beckham's surprise that much of last season's training was spent focusing on ballwork, rather than the fitness and physical element of the game, was revealed after England's Euro 2004 elimination.

He said: "I don't think we do as much conditioning work in Madrid as we did at United.

"That is the way it is in the Spanish league. I didn't feel as fit in the second half of last season.

"Maybe it has spilled over into this tournament but I am not going to make excuses."

Queiroz asked for additional players to bolster his squad, and upon his dismissal at the end of a trophy-less season, the coach admitted that he almost walked away from the club in January when Perez and Valdano failed to act on his requests.

Beckham was not the only Euro 2004 flop from Real Madrid.

If you blinked, you missed Raul, while Zinedine Zidane scored three goals but was just two minutes away from a massive French media backlash in their opening game against England.

He showed genius with the free-kick equaliser and then thumped home the winning penalty, but Zidane was fortunate that such set-piece opportunities presented themselves at an opportune moment.

Ivan Helguera and Raul Bravo were anonymous as the Spaniards bowed out in the first round, while Luis Figo has so far flattered to deceive, even though Portugal are semi-finalists and still alive in the competition. …

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