David Beckham's Legacy: One of the best

Chris PolechonskiSenior Research Executive Digital, Media and Technology
May 21, 2013, 6:01 PM UTC

Half of all UK football fans believe David Beckham is one of the top twenty footballers of the last 40 years, with a third putting him in the top ten

Following David Beckham announcing his retirement, former England winger Chris Waddle stated that "Beckham probably wouldn't be in the first 1,000" best players of the past 40 years. However, a new survey reveals that the public disagree. Nearly a third (31%) of football fans believe that Beckham is one of the top ten footballers of the last 40 years, while 2% say he is number one. A further quarter (25%) believe he is in the top 20 and almost one in five (19%) say he is in the top 50. In total, 75% of fans would place him in the top 50.

However, when asked what level they would rate David Beckham at the peak of his career, football fans are more split. Two in five (40%) think he was a good Premier League player, while almost as many (39%) said he was a good Champions League player. Fourteen per cent believe he was the best player in the world at his peak.

These views are highlighted by the fact that when asked which retiring footballer – out of Beckham, Paul Schole, Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen – achieved most in his career, 70% say Beckham. Despite other world class players – such as Zidane and Xavi – claiming that Paul Scholes was one of the best players in the world, less than a fifth (18%) of fans said that the Manchester United man achieved the most in his career. Only 4% and 1% respectively thought the same about Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen.

Memorable moments

Personal achievements are regarded as David Beckham’s most memorable moments by football fans. Beckham’s last minute goal from a free kick against Greece in 2001, which sent England to the finals of World Cup 2002 came out on top as fans’ most memorable moment, with nearly two-fifths (39%) saying this.

Another goal, this time scoring from the halfway line against Wimbledon on the first day of the 1996/97 season, is 14% of fans’ most memorable event in his career. A personal ‘achievement’ of different sorts came third, with an eighth of fans (12%) saying that his sending off against Argentina at World Cup 1998 was their most remembered Beckham moment.


Legacy: Good for the game

David Beckham also left a positive lasting impression amongst the British public as a whole. More than three-quarters (78%) think that Beckham was good for the game of football. This rises to nine in ten (89%) when asked just of football fans.

In terms of ‘Brand Beckham’, almost half (49%) of the British public believe that his media success was due to his own footballing achievements rather than because of this marriage to Victoria Beckham. Again this support for Beckham rises amongst football fans, three-fifths (59%) of whom believe that Beckham’s media success was due to own footballing achievements.  

See the full poll results