The reality is that Beckham was probably past his peak when Manchester United sold him to the Spanish club in the summer of 2003. It has been his misfortune that he joined a team in a similar situation. He has always striven to give his best for Real but was there as much to sell shirts to the Chinese as provide centres for strikers. In terms of trophies Steve McManaman did better after leaving Anfield for the Bernabéu, sharing two of Real's Champions League triumphs, but at least Beckham has lasted longer there than Michael Owen.
When, in the late 80s, Glenn Hoddle was known to be seeking a move abroad it was put to Leo Beenhakker, the Dutchman then coaching Real Madrid, that he might like to buy the Tottenham player. "Maybe," Beenhakker replied, "but you must understand that our supporters expect us to sign big names."
Beckham's has been the biggest name in global football for the best part of 10 years but not entirely for footballing reasons. He will be remembered as an extremely capable player with a gifted right foot who lacked the explosive pace to become a great one. Most of his best moments, the Machiavellian free-kicks and the penalty which beat Argentina in the 2002 World Cup, ccurred when play was at a standstill.
Reality? Reality? The reality is that Mr Beckham, past his peak or not, has signed a 5 year deal worth a staggering £128 million. This may not make him the best footballer ever, but it will make him the most successful.