WHAT IF… Beckham had joined Barcelona?

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After many successful years at Old Trafford, it seemed that cracks were appearing in the relationship between Beckham and Ferguson. With the popularity of ‘Brand Beckham’ soaring in recent years, it appeared that Sir Alex was concerned of a celebrity lifestyle overshadowing the attitude on the pitch of his number seven.

Following a locker room incident involving a football boot being launched at Beckham, sustaining a cut above his eye which required stitches, rumours were rife that Becks would soon be leaving Manchester. In early 2003, it appeared that Real Madrid president Florentino Perez had done enough to persuade Beckham that he should become the next ‘galactico’ at the Bernabeu, and although not officially confirmed, it looked like a done deal.

Yet Joan Laporta, hoping to become Barcelona’s new president following several years of disappointment in Catalunya, caused waves in the ocean when he announced that Beckham had instead agreed to join the Camp Nou. The excitement of bringing ‘Brand Beckham’ to Barcelona, particularly from under the noses of their rivals, led to Laporta winning the electoral race, yet his signing never transpired. Beckham ended up in Madrid just as they’d said he would in the first place.

With the latest ‘galactico’ attempting to help a bulging set of individual stars form a team, Barcelona instead signed Ronaldinho from Paris Saint-Germain (somewhat ironically from under the noses of Manchester United who had earmarked the Brazilian as Beckham’s replacement) – and the rest is history.

What might’ve been?

As Beckham decides to reject Madrid and become the marquee signing at Barcelona, Laporta enjoys the adulation of fans delighted to see that their club still have the pulling power to sign the biggest names in the world. Florentino Perez meanwhile, without a new ‘galactico’ to add to his collection, instead spends the money on offering defensive midfielder Claude Makelélé a bumper contract to keep him happy and elevate his status. (In reality, Zidane once claimed ‘why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?’ when referring to Beckham’s arrival which ousted the French enforcer).

With Makelélé remaining in the team, the ‘galacticos’ add substance to their vast amounts of style, and become the most devasting team in La Liga, and Europe, for years to come, creating a legacy whereby the best players in the world continually join the club.

While Beckham performs admirably at Barcelona, he isn’t able to prevent the Madrid side from winning countless trophies. Yet Beckham’s presence completely changes, or leads to a failure to change, the philosophy of Barcelona Football Club for years to come. Advocating Becks’ ability to provide crosses and long passes to perfection, La Masia, the famed youth academy of Barcelona, see their youth products fail to have a successful transition to the first team, with their short passing style ineffectively combining with Beckham’s longer hits.

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