It had to happen. Goldenballs first season in Spanish football has been turned into a book. But wait, this hasn't been written by some English tabloid hack with revolving pounds (Or Euros) where his eyes should be. Phil Ball is a resident of Spain, having lived in San Sebastian since 1991, and has written for "When Saturday Comes". He knows his Spanish football having also written "Morbo" a history of Spanish football and a history of Real Madrid "White Storm". He's also broadcast for "Sky's" "La Liga" programme so you can be sure this guy knows his onions when it comes to Spanish football. It would be entertaining but erroneous if an iconoclastic approach had been taken but that worry is quickly shunted to one side as it soon becomes clear that the fair-minded Ball likes Beckham as a person (Not that he knows him personally mind) and admires him as a footballer though he's also swift to put his ability in context by comparing to some of Real Madrid's other galactico signings, who he clearly cant compete with in footballing terms. In commercial terms he's streets ahead of course and that's put in mind boggling perspective too with sly digs at Alex Ferguson's lack of big picture vision when it comes to Beckham. Ball puts Beckhams seismic transfer into perpspective by covering Reals more controversial signings throughout their history , many having a political aspect because of the clubs affiliation to the Franco regime and the tempestuous relationship they share with their Catalan rivals Barcelona. It was news to me that Reals greatest player Di Stefano was actually a Barcelona player when they signed him amid some murky contractual chicanery. There isn't a great deal of the pure gossip and inter player backbiting that would add a compelling salacious gloss to the narrative but there is enough to keep you reading in anticipation. I particularly enjoyed Figos comments to the linesman after Beckham is sent off against Murcia .Figo is also identified as the one character Beckham needed to get onside when he first signed as he is apparently a brooding cerebral figure who doesn't suffer fools. Perhaps surprisingly there was no problem, maybe because Figo speaks good English, the more waggish would say better than Beckham. Ball points out that Beckham has attempted to learn Spanish but has really struggled something that will not sit well with his host country as they really like to see a genuine effort to speak their language being made. There are some interesting observations made about the Spanish approach to life in this book, their gender separating tendencies when socialising, and their love of children which explains Beckhams masterstroke in unashamedly embracing the young lad who ran out to him at his training ground unveiling and their mistrust of his clingy media savvy Mrs. Opinions are solicited from all walks of life, Ball even interviews a member of Real Madrid,s "Ultras" in a tense clandestine meeting in a back street bar, with the slightly surprising conclusion that this hardened fan thinks Beckham,s "All right". Beckham,s hideously over exposed, there no denying it. So you could be forgiven for thinking this is another un-necessary addition to that malaise. But you'd be wrong as this a fascinating readable account that wisely concentrates on Beckham the footballer not the celebrity. Ball clearly isn't interested in the detritus that brings and hooray for that. He even sticks up for Beckham after his risible Euro 2004 performances although I think his reasons for doing so are slightly flawed. It seems Beckhams star might be on the wane so this book may have come out at the wrong time and judging by his second half performance for England against Austria he's a lot of work to do match his efforts of last season . But y, know what, after reading this I hope he manages it.
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