Golf clubs and homecomings

February, 19, 2007
Former England captain Alan Shearer is the latest to weigh in on David Beckham's move to MLS, albeit somewhat belatedly. Shearer told an English tabloid over the weekend he couldn't understand Beckham's decision to sign with the Galaxy, a move Shearer believes will end Beckham's chances of ever playing with the English national team again.

According to Shearer, "[Beckham] is about to fly off to America to play in a league which is probably on a parallel with [England's] second division, with respect ... I don't know what his reasons are for going out there at his age. He still has some years left in him at a high level. I certainly believe he could do a job in the Premiership."

That's just it though -- there's no doubt the key factor in Beckham's decision to sign with MLS was his ultimate realization that there was zero chance he would earn a recall to the English team while Steve McClaren was coach, regardless of whether or not he was tearing it up at AC Milan, Inter Milan or even the unfashionable backwaters of Bolton (three teams that reportedly showed strong interest in Beckham in January).

Let's face it, even if he hadn't drawn that conclusion already, the recent inclusion of skill-deprived Joey Barton to the English midfield would have hammered home the fact that, at this point, McClaren will select just about any midfielder but Beckham.

Bellamy in trouble again

I blogged early last week about how Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez's decision to bring on the notorious character flaw otherwise known as Craig Bellamy had been a key error in judgment. It therefore comes as no surprise to me the combative Bellamy allegedly attacked teammate John Arne Riise with a golf club at a training camp "bonding" session this past weekend for Liverpool. The squad was preparing for its huge clash with Barcelona in the Champions League this week.

What provoked Bellamy's attack? You'd imagine Riise had to have been deriding Bellamy's lack of goals, constant squandering of simple chances, extensive history of legal troubles or simply poking fun at Bellamy's famous lack of a neckline. But no, Riise's sin apparently was his refusal to sing during a karaoke session. I guess I should call myself lucky none of my friends have yet seen fit to assault me with a No. 7 iron given the numerous times I've declined the chance to display American Idol-esque talents. Bellamy needs to be shown the door at Anfield -- fast. I'd be shocked if he's still with the Reds next season.

The rise and fall of Juan Riquelme

Sunday saw the return of Juan Riquelme to Argentina and the club where he first made his name (Boca Juniors). Has anyone's stock fallen faster over the last 12 months than Riquelme? This time last year, he was being lauded in some quarters as possibly the best midfielder in the world, carrying unfashionable Villarreal to unprecedented heights in the Champions League and becoming the key around which Argentina would build its World Cup hopes.

One year later, after choking on a key penalty situation against Arsenal, which cost Villarreal a Champions League final berth, and performing dismally in the World Cup, Riquelme's role as a force on the world stage seems over at the age of 28. He retired from the national team following heavy post-Cup criticism and fell out of favor at Villarreal after the team finally tired of his prima donna ways (his insistence on training only when he "felt" like it, for one).

The biggest trap some coaches fell into was the belief Riquelme could carry a team on his own. The thing about Riquelme is he was always a strange combination in terms of his skills. He had the vision and passing ability of a classic No. 10, but lacked the ability to hold the ball and the dribbling skills such playmakers usually have.

The book on Riquelme was if you left him alone, he could destroy you; but if you man-marked him or pressed him physically, he lacked the speed and dribbling to break away from such coverage. That being said, Riquelme was probably always best utilized as a complementary piece as opposed to the focal point. It's a shame Barcelona never really gave him the opportunity to play alongside Ronaldinho during his time at the Nou Camp.

Jen Chang is the U.S. Soccer editor for ESPNsoccernet. He also writes regularly and is a contributer to Soccernet podcasts. He joined ESPN Studio Production in 2004 and earned a Sports Emmy award, before making the move to in 2005.



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