Chapter 498 – Character Determines Fate
On the morning of January 1st, Twain announced at the Nottingham City Ground stadium that the Forest team would bring in David Beckham on a free transfer the next season. The news caused a sensation in both Spain and England. Previously, everyone assumed that when Beckham left Bernabéu, he would definitely go to Los Angeles because his wife liked the colorful world of Hollywood. Unexpectedly, Beckham, who had always listened to Victoria, went against his wife’s wishes for once and insisted on staying in Europe and in the center of the football world.
Just a minute after the press conference had ended, the welcome page of Nottingham Forest’s official website featured news about Beckham’s free transfer.
Meanwhile, at the Nottingham Forest merchandise stores surrounding the City Ground stadium, the jerseys with Beckham’s number 24 printed on them were placed on the merchandise shelves. The Forest fans who caught wind of it snatched them up within half a day.
This had all been prepared long ago. Twain remembered when Beckham went to the LA Galaxy, the LA Galaxy team had sold Beckham’s jerseys like mad. As a result, he suggested to Allan that they could try selling the Forest team jerseys with Beckham’s name in advance. Anyway, half a season later, Beckham was bound to be part of their team. It did not matter whether they sold them earlier or later. If they sold them earlier, they could make money half a season earlier.
Allan thought this was a good idea, so he made arrangements accordingly. The sales volume computed after the first morning made him beam with joy.
On the day van Nistelrooy joined, they sold 720 jerseys.
After the announcement of Beckham’s signing, they sold 1,300 jerseys in half a day.
It was almost as much as the sales for van Nistelrooy. If Allan Adams had not deliberately controlled the number of jerseys, perhaps there would be more sales.
Twain received two calls in the afternoon. The first call was from Manchester United’s manager, Ferguson.
“Tony, you took my man again.” Even as he said it, Twain did not detect any hint of anger in Ferguson’s tone.
So he laughed happily and replied, “Don’t tell me Manchester United also secretly contacted Beckham’s agent?”
“That’s impossible. We don’t need a 31-year-old Beckham.” Ferguson’s words were a little heartless but in line with his usual style. Any player who was old and could not keep up with the team’s requirements had to be eliminated. He only considered the issue of generational change from the team’s perspective.
Twain whistled into the phone. The answer was really forthright.
“I just have one question. I hope to get your answer. I know Beckham did not want to come back to England because of his feelings for Manchester United. He once said he won’t return because he did not want to be enemies with Manchester United. How did you convince him?” Ferguson admitted his surprise when he found out that Beckham had chosen to return to England to join Nottingham Forest. His interest in Tony Twain grew stronger, so he could not wait to call him.
“Very simple. I told him that he does not have to be on the main list whenever Nottingham Forest plays against Manchester United. This condition can be written in the contract as a guarantee.”
Ferguson just went, “Ah.” The answer was as he had guessed. However, this clause was usually used in La Liga and Real Madrid, whom Beckham currently played for. In fact, it somewhat violated the principle of fair play because it amounted to a covert weakening of the opponent’s strength. Therefore, the Uruguayan defensive midfielder, Pablo Garcia, who was dumped by Real Madrid, said this was a “bullsh*t clause.”
Twain was willing to do this because he really wanted to rope in Beckham by any means necessary.
“But he refused,” Twain said next, taking Ferguson by surprise.
“He didn’t accept this condition. Do you know what he said to me, Sir?”
Ferguson was silent for a moment before he said, “Let’s hear it.”
“I’m a professional player and since I promised to sign with the Forest team, I’m part of the Forest team. If I refuse to play because of my feelings for Manchester United, then it is unprofessional.’ Those were his exact words.”
This time, Ferguson remained quiet longer, so much so that Twain thought the call was disconnected.
After a while, Twain heard a faint sigh coming from the other end of the line.
“I’m still surprised. How did you convince him to go against that woman, Victoria?”
Everyone knew that Ferguson detested Victoria. Someone once asked Ferguson at a party, “If I were to give you a gun and a bullet, who would you shoot? Wenger or Victoria?” Ferguson only smiled and said, “Can I have two?” It was evident the extent to which he hated Victoria. Therefore, Twain was not surprised by his remark.
“I don’t think I had convinced him to go against Victoria. I didn’t even try to persuade Beckham to do so. I can see that he loves his wife very much.”
On the other end of the line came a snort. “Huh.”
Twain did not mind so he said, “It was David who convinced himself and then persuaded Victoria.”
“He convinced himself?”
When Twain closed his eyes and recalled he was still a fan, he knew everything about what had happened to Real Madrid this season. It was almost like an exciting thriller and a suspenseful movie. His only regret was not being able to watch the end of the film because he transferred before the end of the season. But he saw the turning point that changed the ending and the return of the key figures during this film. It was not difficult to guess the ending.
“Beckham’s career has not been very smooth since he left Manchester United. Even though he’s earning more and more money, he has not gained on the football field any honor.”
Ferguson replied, “I said a long time ago that without that woman Victoria he could have achieved a lot more than he has now. But he didn’t listen, he loves that woman. This bastard had been blinded by love.”
Twain waited quietly for Ferguson to finish venting before he continued, “But he still did okay at Real Madrid for the first few seasons, and his immense commercial value gave him an unshakable place in the team. He was almost never left out of the starting list. But this season, after Capello went to Real Madrid, everything changed. Beckham found himself no longer valued, and even the club, which had always supported him, intended to clear him out. The media outlets said he was the prime culprit for Real Madrid’s three fruitless seasons. The fans vented their frustration on every player because of the team’s poor performance, and even Beckham was no exception. The team is internally divisive, and the locker room atmosphere is a mess. The manager’s distrust, frequent injuries, the World Cup fiasco and being ruled out of the national team’s big list. He was on the verge of being washed-up.”
This time Ferguson did not speak, but waited quietly for Twain to go on.
“He’s only 31 years old and has to go to a broken place like America to spend the last years of his career. I don’t think there’s basically any difference in going to the United States and going to Qatar—they are deserts. In fact, I did not say anything, and I failed to persuade him. He used his family as an excuse, so I did not continue to try. But I’m sure Beckham was unwilling to accept his current situation.”
What was his situation? He was almost abandoned by the entire world—everyone flaunted their strength in front of him and sentenced him to death. Every gloating face stared at him, expecting him to make a mistake, looking forward to him down on his luck, expecting him to be consigned to the eternal damnation of the abyss in hell. That kind of feeling was truly awful.
When he reached an impasse, Beckham saw exactly what he really needed. Money? He had made enough money, and he would continue making it. He did not lack money. Glory? As a professional player, he had obtained almost all the championships he could get in a football club. There was no more hope for the World Cup due to his age. He was not short of glory.
So, what did he lack?
“What he lacks is respect. Not the respect for him as the world’s top entertainment star or heartthrob. It’s the respect as a professional player. Most people who mention him only think of him as a weakling who relies on his looks and wife to make money. They think with his mediocre playing skills; he is still able to be adored by thousands is because he has a pretty face. Didn’t the Spanish media say it all? What does it take to be a successful player? First one needs a pretty face, and then train hard to improve one’s skills. The face is the most important; the legs don’t matter. You see, that’s what everyone thinks, and Beckham will not accept it. He wants to prove again that he is still a qualified professional player and that his legs are more important than his face. But if he had gone to the United States, he would have completely validated what everyone thought of him, and even lost the chance to fight back. So, he cannot go. He wants to stay in Europe and prove to those who doubt and despise him that David Beckham is firstly an excellent player.”
“So, he chose Nottingham Forest, which was willing to give him a chance to prove himself again,” Ferguson added.
Twain chuckled on the other end of the line, “You can say that. I just told David that he is a professional footballer until he announces his retirement someday and nothing else.”
Ferguson had watched Beckham grow up, and Sir Alex believed that Twain’s remark was justified.
“If he had listened to me earlier and stayed away from that woman, he would not have been at this current juncture,” Ferguson said with some indignation.
Twain cheerfully said, “Sir Alex, love is irrational. Who can clearly say otherwise?”
“You know a lot for a bachelor, don’t you?”
“That’s why romance novels are written. Haha!”
Ferguson laughed when he heard Twain said, “Don’t be happy too soon, Tony. When Beckham comes back, that woman, Victoria will make you suffer. When is your birthday? I’ll send you a gun and a bullet as a present.”
“Can you send a few ammunition clips instead?” He did not expect Twain to ask this.
“What do you want so much for?”
“Because I have too many enemies.” Twain shrugged.
It was understandable that Ferguson would make a call. Twain could not have guessed the call from the second person.
“I have called to congratulate you. Why do you sound so cold, Mr. Twain?” asked Billy Woox with his peculiar accent over the phone. The owner of this voice completely dampened Twain’s mood.
“Why did you to call to congratulate me when Beckham is transferring over here?” Twain replied coldly. He was not gracious about it at all.
“Aren’t we all in the same boat?” Woox’s peculiar accent became weirder which made Twain shudder.
“Who’s in the same boat as you?”
“Ah, it’s all that boy, Wood’s fault. He always tells me about the loyalty to the club, and I’m tired of hearing it. Since Wood is your player and I’m his agent. Aren’t we in the same boat? Nottingham Forest has done well and is famous, so my dear Wood’s future is guaranteed.”
“Your dear Wood?” Twain grunted. He was upset that since Woox appeared, his relationship with Wood had drifted apart. He did not know if it was instigated by Woox.
“Our dear Wood, Mr. Twain.” Woox hurriedly changed his tune.
But Woox’s attitude was quite strange today, which was not as tough as before.
Twain felt there must be something behind it. It was certainly not as simple as a congratulatory call. Suddenly an idea flashed in his mind.
“Mr. Woox, you’re not coming to me again to talk about Wood’s salary, are you?”
Woox laughed on the other end. Goosebumps formed along Twain’s arms. “You’re so clever, Mr. Twain. Ah, but I’m just here to give you a reminder. I don’t really want to negotiate with you. After all, Wood and his mother are against me coming to you to talk about money. I’m just reminding you that if you’re going to reorganize the team’s salary structure in the future, be sure to keep George Wood, who has given so much to the team, in mind.”
“It’s really strange that an insatiable wolf knows how to restrain its appetite,” Twain replied sarcastically.
“Oh, it gets even weirder. Don’t tell me the close-fisted Mr. Twain is going to take the initiative to talk to me about Wood’s salary? To be honest, I think seventy-five thousand is still too low.” He did not expect Woox to turn the table on him, which dumbfounded Twain.
“No, I don’t intend to talk to you,” replied Twain, gnashing his teeth. This person was more shameless than him. Give him an inch and he would take a mile. He did not consider the consequences.
Woox sniggered on the other end as he topped Twain, “But I think Beckham will be a good teacher for Wood, so I’d like to congratulate you, Mr. Twain.”
“Beckham is the right midfielder, and George Wood is a defensive midfielder, Mr. Woox. You really don’t know football.”
“Who says they will have a teacher and student relationship on the football field? Don’t you think Beckham can help open a door for a blockhead like George to the entertainment and fashion world when he comes?”
Twain was really stunned to hear Woox say so. He really did not think about the impact of Beckham’s arrival on other people off the field.
“So, I want to thank you, Mr. Twain. You’ve been a big help to me. I was worried that no one would be able to be an example to George and tell him how wonderful the rest of the world is.” Woox hung up the phone, tittering.
Twain froze in the office with the cell phone in his hand after the call had ended.
For now, George Wood was still a qualified professional player. However, if what Woox said came to pass, he did not know at all what would happen after the arrival of Beckham, this commercial superstar. He could not do anything now except to pray that George Wood was a piece of wood from head to toe like his name and that he would not be interested in or think about anything except football.
While Twain was on the phone with Ferguson and Woox, Capello responded to this matter at a regular press conference during Real Madrid’s training in Spain. It happened exactly as Twain expected. This old man announced Beckham’s days at Real Madrid had come to an end, because this was a complete betrayal.
“How can you publicly announce that you’re going to play in another team after half a season while you still have a contract with your team? That’s the biggest disrespect to the team you are playing for. Since he doesn’t think of himself as a member of Real Madrid anymore, I’d be happy to oblige. For the next half of the season, he won’t be playing for Real Madrid for even a minute!” After the Italian manager said these words with a grim expression, there was an uproar with the exception of Beckham and Twain.
There had been a lot of discord between coaches and players in the world of football. However, Capello might be the first to do it so extremely and announce so publicly.
What did it mean that he could not play for half a season? He could not maintain his condition. No one would know what kind of player Nottingham Forest had bought Beckham as. Consequently, the English media analyzed that Capello took revenge on Nottingham Forest and made them pay a high salary to support a 31-year-old “senior” player whose condition was completely without guarantee.
On the other hand, the Spanish media argued that this was not really Capello’s decision alone, but more likely an order from the upper echelon of the club, and Capello just carried it out. Because the team needed to do a massive purge now, it was perfect that Beckham did the opposite which could intimidate the players and show Real Madrid’s renewed determination to usher in new blood.
It was a great strategy.
Twain made a phone call to Beckham after he saw the news. He found out that David had not been affected, and that he had anticipated everything. Twain was finally relieved. It seemed that some things might have changed, but other things would never change.
The media was thrilled. They twisted Capello’s declaration into a provocation to Nottingham Forest, and eagerly looked forward to how Tony Twain, this idiosyncratic manager, would hit back at Capello, who was also equally distinctive.
As a result, Wilford was surrounded by a lot of media the next day. At the team’s regular press conference, the reporters completely did not care about the Forest team’s recent competition record and training situation. They just asked Twain his views on Capello’s remarks.
Everyone thought that Twain would smack the table and throw out some abuse, or taunt Real Madrid with the sarcasm he was good at.
Surprisingly, Twain’s response to this disappointed everyone.
Instead of aiming at Real Madrid and Capello, he targeted the media that hyped this matter.
“I find this strange. I’m not the manager of Real Madrid or their club president. Why are you asking me about the decision of that club? What inside story do you think I know? I will tell you this. I know as much as you do, maybe not even as well. From Capello’s perspective, I understand this decision. But I also believe that Mr. Capello will surely see David’s qualities that will impress him, just as David has impressed me in the first place. It won’t take long, ladies and gentlemen, I promise, it will be within the rest of this season.”
Twain did not say this because he foresaw the future. It was because, at that moment, Twain deeply understood the strength of Beckham’s beliefs and determination, so he dared to vouch for him in front of the media.
After all, the future he was familiar with was likely to change, but a person’s character would not. It determined a person’s words and deeds, and these words and deeds determined his fate.
David Beckham’s destiny was to win back the respect, then leave Bernabéu with pride and start a whole new future at Nottingham Forest.