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'Beckham's celebrity lifestyle damaged his career'

The former England and Manchester United great Bobby Charlton feels David Beckham should be playing in England, not the US.

sports Updated: Sep 07, 2007 19:07 IST
Beckham's celebrity lifestyle damaged his career: Charlton

David Beckham should be playing in England, not the United States and his celebrity lifestyle has damaged his career, according to former England and Manchester United great Bobby Charlton.

"Beckham was a really, really great footballer -- a marvellous talent," Charlton said on Thursday at the launch of his autobiography. "I saw it when he was about 10 and he has a terrific talent, but his lifestyle has gone in a different direction."

While United scouts thought Beckham lacked strength, the youngster dazzled Charlton at his Manchester soccer school.

"He wanted to be a footballer as much as any young player I've ever seen and I wonder sometimes if he thinks what's happening now," Charlton said at Old Trafford.

Beckham joined United in 1989 at age 14, debuted in 1992, and won six Premier League titles and a Champions League medal before transferring in 2003 to Real Madrid. He joined the Los Angeles Galaxy this summer on a five-year, USD 32.5 million contract.

"He's in America, he's committed to making millions of pounds," Charlton said. "I would rather he was playing here in England than anywhere else, that's for sure."

Regardless, Charlton expects the former England captain to play three more matches for his country and reach 100 appearances, although that would still be six short of Charlton's total.

Beckham's profile rocketed when he married former Spice Girl singer Victoria Adams in 1999, shortly after winning the treble with United.

In his autobiography "My Manchester United Years," Charlton, 69, wrote that he believed fame outside of soccer led to a decline in Beckham's game.

"Beckham thought that a celebrity lifestyle, being drawn increasingly into the showbiz world of his wife Victoria, was compatible with the regime of a professional footballer. His manager (Alex Ferguson) did not," Charlton wrote.

Beckham' time in Spain, which yielded just one league title, ended with a move to the US, where "Posh and Becks" are close to celebrity friends Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

Beckham rejected an "excellent, generous offer" to stay at Old Trafford in 2003, said Charlton, who won the World Cup in 1966 with England.

"The manager had serious problems with Beckham's lifestyle, finding it unhelpful, to say the least," Charlton added. "(But) there was never any question of the player being driven out of United. That was the impression given by Beckham and his people -- and it was quite wrong."

Charlton, who scored 198 goals for the Red Devils between 1954 and 1973, acknowledged Beckham's contribution to Man United in his book. But he gave special praise to Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, who remain central to United's title defense this season.

While critical of Beckham's move to the US, Charlton has no concerns for now about American owner Malcolm Glazer, who bought United in 2005.

The Glazer family has denied recent reports of potential billion-dollar takeover bids from China and United Arab Emirates.

First Published: Sep 07, 2007 18:45 IST