David Beckham has retired from football, prompting another gutwrenchingly nauseating avalanche of Becks-mania in the media and general populace. It happened when he quit Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan, LA Galaxy, England and now Paris Saint-Germain.
And will doubtless happen again when he becomes Sir David, then Lord Beckham of Leytonstone, and eventually, presumably, King David — after Britain inevitably changes its rules on royal qualification.
I’ve nothing against the guy personally. We’ve met only once, at 2am in Soho House, West Hollywood a few years ago. And he was perfectly charming, despite all the criticism I’ve levelled at his golden boots over the years. ( I’ve always got on well with his wife, Victoria. I once suggested to her that she try to persuade David to join Arsenal — to which she replied with imperious WAG-style logic: ‘I’d love him to, too, it’s nearer the shops.’)
But let’s be honest, he was never actually that good a player. He could take a great free kick, and swing in a devilish corner. But David has never been in the same league as Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. Or even his former United comrade Paul Scholes, who also retired this month, quietly and without fanfare.
What David HAS been is the greatest self- marketer the game’s ever known — a genius for promoting Brand Beckham on and off the pitch, and making himself rich and famous in the process.
And as somebody who knows a thing or two about this particular art form, I salute his brilliant talent.
Perhaps the greatest illustration of how successful his strategy has been came when I met arguably the most well known, and respected person on the planet, Nelson Mandela, in 2003.
We discussed serious issues such as the war in Iraq and AIDS, before I said to him, ‘ Now, Mr Mandela, I wonder if I could ask you the REALLY big question?’
‘And what is that, young man?’ he replied. ‘Well, it’s this: who do you think, on balance, is more famous? You or David Beckham?’ Mandela burst out laughing. ‘Ah, Beckham! He is very famous now. I think he is more famous than me, definitely!’
As I write this, David Beckham has 423 million entries on Google. And Nelson Mandela has 43 million.
The great South African leader, once again, was right. Rod Stewart’s new album has gone to No. 1 in the British charts — his first chart-topper for 34 years. This news broke minutes after my team, Arsenal, scraped through to come fourth in the Premier League — sparking scenes of such unbridled joy from the players and manager that you would have thought they had just won the Champions League.
‘Massive congrats,’ I told Rod. ‘Arsene Wenger would celebrate you coming fourth; I prefer reserving my praise for coming first.’
‘Thanks, me old sausage,’ he replied. ‘ There’s always next season for the Gunners!’
Hmmm. If Wenger — once a god-like coach, now Samson with the hair removed — remains in charge, I fear I could be waiting for another trophy even longer than Rod waited for his No. 1 album. There are some things that even the most incompetent men in the kitchen should be able to cook successfully. And baked beans on toast would be at the top of most people’s list.
The recipe, and execution of that recipe, is straightforward: you take two pieces of bread, put them in a toaster, then open a can of beans, put them in a saucepan, cook them for a few minutes until they bubble, and I sometimes stumble across the most bizarre gifts lurking in my various offices. Today, for example, a copy of Ed Sheeran’s new album fell out of a cupboard in my New York lair, where it had been sitting for a couple of months. On it, he’d scrawled: ‘Piers! I promise one day to have sex. I just can’t promise with whom. Love Ed.’
I was still trying to work out what on earth had prompted him to write this when my assistant called from Los Angeles. ‘Gerard Butler’s sent you a present, as a thank-you for taking him to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.’
I assumed it would be a bottle of wine or a DVD of his new movie — but I had underestimated Mr Butler’s generosity.
He’d given me a brand-new Surly road bike, gift-wrapped with a red bow on the handlebars.
‘Thanks so much,’ I told him this evening. ‘Really kind of you.’
‘Pleasure,’ he replied, ‘Now we can get fit together!’ I think it’s safe to say that Gerard and I are now firmly moving into Maverick/Goose territory.