By now the story can be written from its end. He is said to have cried when

England manager Steve McLaren did not call him up for the ‘Three Lions’ in

August 2006. Were there tears when he was recalled in May 2007? We do not

know. When he earned his 100th cap on 26 March 2008 against France, some

might have preferred the ‘99’ as a symbol of incompletion. His transfer from Real

Madrid via Hollywood to Los Angeles Galaxy in July 2007 was considered by

many to be consistent with his previous career, as was signing, on loan, with AC

Milan in the 2008/09 winter break; increasingly, the term ‘travelling circus’ began

to be used. First pictures from Milan showed his spouse Victoria on the VIP stand

of the Giuseppe Meazza stadium, others showed huge advertising signs for

underwear displayed on buildings. All this leads directly away from the football

pitch, and right to the heart of our subject.