Even by the standards of a Premier League January transfer window, it was an eye-catching signing.
The picture of Romeo Beckham signing a contract at Brentford, where he will spend the rest of the season on loan from Inter Miami II, with his famous father proudly perched by his shoulder, certainly created waves way beyond west London.
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) January 6, 2023
So, is Beckham, 20, really edging closer towards achieving his dream of following in his father’s illustrious footsteps? The Athletic unpicks this unlikely deal and examines what the club and player might gain from it.
How good is Beckham as a footballer?
For Romeo Beckham — the second-eldest child of David, the former Manchester United midfielder and England captain, and his pop star turned fashion mogul wife Victoria — this is an opportunity to gain crucial experience. Beckham spent time in Arsenal’s academy when he was growing up but was released in 2015 when he was only 12. He then avoided playing football altogether for five years and pursued other interests.
“The other day Romeo turned around to me and said he didn’t want to play football anymore,” David told the Radio Times in 2015. “Part of me was devastated, but part of me was relieved, too. He’s got other passions and I like that.”
Beckham received tennis lessons from Andy Murray and Grigor Dimitrov, while his modelling career took off as he got involved in campaigns for Burberry. In 2020, he decided to return to football and a year later he joined Fort Lauderdale, the reserve side of Major League Soccer franchise Inter Miami.
David co-owns Inter Miami and it was impossible for them to avoid accusations of nepotism. Phil Neville, Beckham’s former team-mate at Manchester United, is Inter Miami’s manager and his son Harvey plays for their reserves, too.
However, Beckham excelled for the reserve team, which was renamed Inter Miami II last February, in the inaugural MLS Next Pro season. They missed out on the play-offs after finishing sixth in the Eastern Conference, but Beckham recorded 10 assists, the joint-highest alongside Columbus Crew defender Mohamed Farsi. In July, he came off the bench for the senior side when they played Barcelona in a friendly.
Why has he left Inter Miami for Brentford’s B team?
Brentford established the B team project in 2016 after they closed down their academy. The club had grown frustrated at spending £1.5million a year running a category two-level academy, only for their best players to be poached by bigger clubs in return for small compensation fees.
Brentford’s B team do not play in a league and organise their own fixtures against a wide variety of opponents. Lots of their players are picked up after they have been released from the academies of other clubs.
Last season, the B team took part in The Atlantic Cup, which included the then Danish champions Brondby, Breidablik from Iceland and Sweden’s Halmstads, played against a Monaco side which was captained by the former Arsenal and Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas, and won the London Senior Cup.
Brentford reopened their academy last summer, partially due to Premier League rules, but kept the B team because they see it as a crucial pathway for players who want to break into Thomas Frank’s senior squad.
Working with Brentford B will offer Beckham a unique education. He is used to playing football in Miami’s sunshine, but over the next couple of months he will have to get used to being crunched by burly defenders in the freezing cold on hard, bobbly pitches at non-League clubs across England.
What is the link between the Beckhams and Brentford?
David was introduced to Lee Dykes — who joined Brentford in the summer of 2019 as their director of recruitment and was promoted last June to the role of technical director, increasing his influence — a few years ago and the pair have remained in contact since. David brought up the idea of Romeo working with the B team during a conversation with Dykes.
Inter Miami II’s season finished in September and he thought it would be a good opportunity for his son to maintain his fitness while he spent time living in London before the next campaign. Romeo first linked up with the B team in October and the original plan was always for him to return to Inter Miami II.
However, Neil MacFarlane, Brentford B team’s head coach, and his assistant Sam Saunders were hugely impressed by Romeo’s quality and attitude. Although he was not on trial, he was committed and worked hard during training. He was unable to participate in any official games but held his own in behind-closed-doors sessions which would often involve members of the first-team squad.
Romeo quickly forged strong relationships with the B team players and could be spotted watching their matches from the stands. When they travelled to the Netherlands for a tour, which included fixtures against Jong PSV and Jong AZ Alkmaar, Romeo tagged along even though he could not play. Over Christmas, he went to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park in fancy dress costumes with goalkeeper Roco Rees and midfielder Roy Syla.
Romeo has also been spotted at a number of first-team matches, including the 3-1 victory over Liverpool last Monday, while his father attended the Carabao Cup tie against Gillingham in November. Due to his performances in training, Brentford and Inter Miami discussed the possibility of him staying on loan until June. After all parties agreed, David visited the training ground to help complete the deal.
“We’ve been absolutely delighted with Romeo since he arrived with us,” MacFarlane told the club’s official website. “Romeo has applied himself unbelievably well, he’s really bought into the culture and the group, which he has become a big part of. I love his standards and the way he conducts himself on and off the pitch.
“He’s been able to get fitter and fitter during his time with us and it leaves him in a good place to now step forward having joined us on loan. He is very technical and he is somebody who can shift the ball quickly and cross. He is also a really good finisher and has the ability to play a number of positions for us, which is also pleasing.
“I think it’s testament to us as a club, and as a B team, that Inter Miami have asked us to work with him and trust in us to continue working with him to help him with his development.”
How quickly will he be playing – and could he make the first team?
Romeo could make his official debut for the B team when they face Erith and Belvedere in the second round of the London Senior Cup on Tuesday evening. However, the club are still waiting for him to receive international clearance, which means he might have a better chance of playing in their Premier League Cup match against Aston Villa, which will be held at Woking’s stadium on Friday.
In the past few seasons, several members of the B team have broken into the senior squad. Mads Roerslev worked under MacFarlane when he joined Brentford from Copenhagen in 2019 and has gone on to make over 30 appearances for them in the Premier League. Ryan Trevitt is a member of the current B team squad and he came off the bench as a late substitute during Brentford’s 1-0 defeat to West Ham in the FA Cup on Saturday.
If Romeo performs well for the B team, then there is nothing to prevent him from forcing his way into Frank’s plans.
“I’ve loved it (so far),” Beckham said in an interview with the club. “They’re such nice boys and have good energy. I love coming in every day seeing them and getting to train every day with them is fun.
“They are all very talented players and they drive me to be even better in myself. A few of them give me some kicks and I give them back, but we all come in to work hard to get better in ourselves and the coaches drive that.
“I love how we have the opportunity to play at different levels, both abroad and here. We go across to play some men’s teams and it’s a good experience. (I want) to get the experience to play against men and get physically stronger and we’ll see how that can progress me.”
Cynics will claim Beckham’s loan move is a publicity stunt and that it would never have happened were it not for his famous surname.
But while it is true that David might have used his connections to open the door for Romeo at Brentford, it sounds like his son has earned the chance to forge his own reputation.
(Top photo: Romeo and David Beckham at Brentford’s training ground; via Instagram)
Read the full article here