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David Beckham faces tough times - on the playing pitch

The fans chanted "Less millions and more grit," while the headlines trumpeted, "The end of the idyll," and "Beckham under siege and alone."
PTI | By Associated Press, Madrid, Spain
PUBLISHED ON APR 14, 2004 08:36 PM IST

The fans chanted "Less millions and more grit," while the headlines trumpeted, "The end of the idyll," and "Beckham under siege and alone."

After a glittering start, Beckham's time at Real Madrid has hit a crisis.

His team has lost Spain's King's Cup, been ousted from the Champion's League and now, following a humiliating 3-0 loss at home to mid-table Osasuna, fallen from the top post in the Primera Division.

To add to the strain, the England captain has lived under a media siege related to his personal life for the past two weeks. As press photographers and reporters tried to secure a statement, or even just a glimpse of him in Madrid after Sunday's match, he was reported to have arrived with wife Victoria and sons Brooklyn and Romeo at their Hertfordshire mansion in England on Monday morning to map out a new strategy for his life.

The Spanish season has six matches left, half a dozen opportunities to try and rescue some glory from what might otherwise become a soccer nightmare.

Of the games outstanding, at least four will be tough, starting with next week's Madrid derby against Atletico de Madrid, at the rival's Vicente Calderon stadium.

That will be followed by one of the clashes of the season, Madrid at home to the in-form FC Barcelona, which has gone three months undefeated, featuring the skills of Brazilian ace Ronaldinho. The bad news is that doctors confirmed on Monday that Madrid will have to make do without its star striker and only effective goalscorer, Ronaldo, for one and possibly both matches following muscle damage to his left leg against Osasuna.

Third-place Deportivo de La Coruna comes next, giving Real Madrid no let-up in the next three weeks.

Only 17th-place Mallorca and bottom-of-the-league Murcia provide a potential cushion of comfort for Beckham's embattled teammates before finishing the season against tricky 12th-place Real Sociedad. "After four very good years we are going through our worst moment," acknowledged Madrid sports director Jorge Valdano on Monday.

"We have six battles ahead and we are going to prepare for them and win," coach Carlos Queiroz said.

It is clear that the club will require maximum effort, focus and commitment from its star players - Beckham included - in order to win the only prize available: The Spanish league. The thing is that despite reports of a mansion in Madrid and a luxury yacht on the Mediterranean, the Beckhams have not settled down visibly to family life in Spain.

The star midfielder has plowed an increasingly lonely furrow in recent times, leading to inevitable speculation as to a possible return next season to the English league.

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