SEVILLE, February 12 – David Beckham's England career has been nothing if not eventful.The 33-year-old midfielder, recalled to the squad after impressing Fabio Capello with his recent displays for AC Milan, equalled Bobby Moore’s outfield record of 108 caps when he came on as a second-half substitute in a 2-0 defeat by Spain here on Wednesday night.
He may not have taken the game by the scruff of the neck but he certainly did enough to suggest his hope of playing on for his country up to and including next year’s World Cup in South Africa could be realised.
If he does, Beckham might yet eclipse former goalkeeper Peter Shilton as England’s most capped player of all time — a landmark that would require another 18 appearances.
By the time the action kicks off in South Africa, Beckham will have turned 35 and have been representing his country for almost 14 years, having made his debut as a floppy-haired 21-year-old against Moldova on September 1, 1996.
The first of his 17 international goals came at the 1998 World Cup, his freekick against Colombia helping England into the second round.
That tournament was to end in disgrace with Beckham vilified for getting himself sent off for a petulant kick at Diego Simeone as England went out on penalties to Argentina.
An experience that would have crushed less resilient personalities served only to make the then-Manchester United star stronger and his growing significance to the national squad was recognised by caretaker boss Peter Taylor, who made him captain in 2000.
That decision surprised many people but Beckham retained the role under Sven-Goran Eriksson and was at the centre of a revival in England’s fortunes under the Swede.
Beckham was wearing the armband when England hammered Germany 5-1 in Munich in 2001 and it was his dramatic last gasp free-kick that secured a 2-2 draw with Greece later that year, clinching the squad’s place in the 2002 World Cup finals.
His redemption from the 1998 setback was completed in Japan, where he scored the penalty that gave England a group stage win over Argentina.
Another free-kick, against Ecuador in the 2006 finals, made Beckham the first Englishman to score in three World Cups.
Beckham’s international career appeared to have ended after that tournament when new manager Steve McClaren dropped him from the squad.
But the midfielder refused to take the face-saving option of retirement and, the following June, he was back in the fold, setting up John Terry for England’s goal in their first match at the new Wembley, a 1-1 draw with Brazil.
The century of caps was chalked up in a friendly defeat by France last March and it has been inevitable for some time that Beckham would reach Moore’s milestone.
That has triggered some unfavourable comparisons between Beckham and Moore which, according to Sir Bobby Charlton, are unfair.
"David Beckham can’t do any more than go on the field and do his best. And his best has been good enough," Charlton said this week.
"Of course Bobby Moore was the captain when we won the World Cup and maybe people will say that will always overshadow anything David Beckham has done.
"But I don’t think David Beckham will see it like that, he’ll be very pleased and very proud."
Shilton meanwhile has acknowledged — somewhat grudgingly — that Beckham could go on to break his record.
"You can never say never – I’d be surprised but he’s determined. If he breaks my record, I’ll be the first to congratulate him," Shilton said.
"Maybe not if he does it with two or three-minute substitutions but if it’s legitimate, then all well and good."