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Beckham, most popular football star

Is David Beckham the most famous football player ever? I tweeted from my @EmekaEnyadike handle and all hell was let loose as many of my friends, colleagues and followers jumped on my case to disagree.

Here are a few of them:

I will leave my choice of the best player or greatest player ever for another day but my question centred on popularity. I remember when Fifa tried to establish who the greatest player of the last century was. There was a funny twist as Pele rightfully won the official vote but Diego Maradonna won the popular vote based on online votes on the Fifa website.

Will King Diego win the vote against Beckham? No.

Many of the respondents to my Twitter quiz said Messi and Ronaldo but surely even these two, with all their goal-scoring heroics of the last six years, will struggle to match Beckham’s crossover appeal, which transcends sport to music and lifestyle. He is a global celebrity and an iconic figure.

I was on the road when the news broke about his retirement and, while I still feel he showed at PSG that he can still be competitive, one thing that impressed me was the timing of his announcement - deep into retirement season.

Yes, you heard me right, retirement season - Michael Owen, Jamie Caragher, Paul Scholes and Sir Alex Ferguson, his erstwhile coach at Manchester United.

I recall Beckham was one of the first people interviewed, paying tribute to Sir Alex, and nothing in those moving tributes gave any indication that he was next.

A lot of factors contributed to Beckham's market value and it will be difficult to match it. It boils down to David's unique selling point, which is his marriage to Posh, and the fact he was an effective and highly competitive player, if not exactly as gifted as the icons mentioned earlier.

Two hallmarks of his game were his ability to accurately pick out his man with his crossing and his dramatic free kicks. Add that famous goal against Wimbledon in 1996 from the halfway mark and….

Then, there is the red card at France ‘98 and the aftermath, his bust-up and boot in the eye incident with Fergie.

His well-oiled marketing machine turned everything he did on and off the field into a media event and he doesn't just speak English, he is English.

Becks had the benefit of Manchester United's imperial reign to thank; six premier League titles and a Uefa Champions League title won on a famous injury-time goal off a Beckham corner.

It takes much more than talent. Even getting married to a famous pop diva has not charmed either Pique/Shakira or Ashley/Cheryl Cole into global style icons.

There will never be another Pele or Maradonna. Becks is a tough act to follow. Maybe someone still waiting in the wings, unless either Ronaldo or Messi win the next World Cup. None is as graceful as Beckham, who didn't need to win that, to attain his crossover appeal.

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