Kevin McCarra

`I'd love to carry on playing and reach Peter Shilton's record'

Beckham had a verve about him in the friendlies against Hungary and JamaicaHis move to Real Madrid had baffling consequences

Baden-Baden: David Beckham must be surprised to find himself being treated as a new discovery while preparing for a 90th England appearance, against Paraguay on Saturday. That will give him the same haul of caps as his boyhood "idol" Bryan Robson. Only Billy Wright (105), Bobby Charlton (106), Bobby Moore (108) and Peter Shilton (125) would have played more games for England than Beckham.

"I'd love to carry on playing and reach Shilton's record," Beckham said. "I'd love to get over that 100-cap mark and see what happens." Nonetheless, people were taken aback to see him impress in the friendlies against Hungary and Jamaica.

Easy as those games were, Beckham had a verve about him that had not been seen for a while. The move to Real Madrid had baffling consequences, tying him to failure when it was supposed to establish him on a higher tier.

"World Cups mean something to you but there's always something missing if you've not won something at the end of playing for a team or a country," said Beckham.

"I've played for Real Madrid for three years now and although I've enjoyed my time there and had good performances, I've nothing to show for that because we haven't won anything for three years."

While the fortunes of the club have sunk, Beckham has not gone under with them. "I feel I have got better,'' he said. "I am lucky; I am quite good at the technical part of the game. It has gone up a level since I have been in Spain. It had to.''

Typifies England

For all the caps and medals, Beckham, on the verge of his third World Cup finals, is remembered mostly in the tournament for the red card against Argentina in 1998. In that regard, he typifies England as whole, who have too often left a stain when they expected to make their mark. On the face of it, the squad does have the means to do better this year.

"Rio Ferdinand and John Terry are regarded as two of the best centre-halfs in the world. When watching the Premiership while either Chelsea or Manchester United are playing, I have seen Real players wince at the way JT or Rio go into headers or tackles," said Beckham.

"The physical side always scares South American teams and maybe other teams in Europe. The Premiership in the last five years technically is up there now with (any) league in the world. The combination of the two scares people and teams. If we play to our abilities in this World Cup, then hopefully we will go far. The Premiership is the most high-tempo football that you can come across, so that is a good factor for us.''

The merger between English and continental ways, however, is not complete.

"In Spain, we all kiss each other before we go out,'' Beckham said. "I nearly did it when I came off against Jamaica at Old Trafford. When Aaron (Lennon) was coming on, I reached forward to kiss him, but then thought, `No, I better not'."

- Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

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