Britain coach Stuart Pearce couldn't pick David Beckham for the Olympic football tournament "on sentiment," he said Monday, and had to consider form and fitness when he left out the man who helped London win the 2012 games.
Pearce confirmed former England captain Beckham was not part of his final 18-man squad, controversially leaving Britain's most famous sportsman off the first British Olympic football squad to compete at a games since 1960.
"From the offset when I was given the opportunity to manage this team I was given the job to manage," Pearce, a former England defender, said. "I looked at form, fitness of players, availability and in that respect I deemed this was the best squad available.
"I don't think there's a football manager around who picks on sentiment," Pearce added as he faced questions at Wembley Stadium in a live television broadcast over his decision to leave out Beckham.
Pearce added that there also was no space for Beckham on his backroom staff at the London Games, but British Olympic team Chef de Mission Andy Hunt said Beckham had been approached for a role with the larger British team at the Olympics.
Beckham's advisors has not yet responded to the invitation, Hunt said, while also giving no more details on what the role might entail.
Beckham spoke in a statement last week of his disappointment after news leaked that he had missed out, but vowed to back Britain's team, which was made up of just English and Welsh players, in Pearce's final selection.
Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs, Liverpool forward Craig Bellamy and Manchester City defender Micah Richards were Pearce's three over-age players, leaving no place for Beckham.
Beckham was on standby in case of injury, like the other players named in Pearce's initial 35-man squad that didn't make the final cut.
Pearce said the LA Galaxy midfielder was "very disappointed" when he told him Thursday night that he wouldn't be on the squad.
"I know he had a real burning passion to be part of this squad," Pearce said. "I understand that. I thought it was right and proper that he heard from me directly."
But Pearce insisted he had "a duty of care" to pick the best-possible squad for Britain's Olympic campaign, and even though he had "vast respect" for Beckham, the midfielder's form and fitness weren't good enough.
"My opening gambit to all the players was there are no guarantees," Pearce said. "They have to come through the door on form and form alone."
Hunt said he backed Pearce's decision and "totally" respected the coach's professional judgment, despite fears that Beckham's exclusion had angered some top English football and Olympic officials.
There were also fears that without Beckham, ticket sales would be affected and the football tournament would be less popular.
"I have to stand by that (decision to cut Beckham) and I will do," Pearce said.