FOR as long as I can remember, David Beckham has been my dream man.
My childhood memories are filled with images of him in a sarong, his first tattoo, that iconic blond mohawk and Golden Balls bulging in that Armani underwear advert. All of them are forever seared on my mind.
I grew up with pictures of Becks on my bedroom wall, wept at the age of eight when he wed Victoria and would have gladly been the mother of his four children.
But that all seems a long, long time ago. Certainly long before he suffered the scourge of fortysomething men everywhere — the dreaded mid-life crisis.
Now, nearly two decades later, I have to make a solemn confession, one I thought I’d never make, and there’s no other way of saying it . . . I no longer fancy David Beckham.
Yes, sorry. But the man other men wanted to be, and the hunk that women wanted to get with, is a distant memory since he hit the big four-o in 2015.
Long gone is the muscly, tattooed model with impeccable style. These days the ex- England captain is sporting dodgy long locks, fearful fashion choices and some picking embarrassing pastimes.
Now dishevelled, with a shabby beard, overgrown hair and tattoos creeping further up his neck, he looks more grunge than gorgeous.
Far from gracing the pages of a magazine, he looks like he should be asking for change in a shop doorway.
Which is in stark contrast to the hunk we saw modelling tight boxers for H&M just three years ago.
It isn’t just his long, greasy locks that have convinced me that David, bless, is struggling with his identity.
Yesterday the once edgy icon boasted of his efforts to “grow old gracefully” in an interview. He even claimed he tries to tame his spending and has a passion for fine wine, which he shares with his wife.
Yes, the man I wanted to be the father of my children now sounds like my dad.
He said: “We used to be very extravagant in what we’d buy each other. But we’re obviously saving the pennies now because we have too many children to be extravagant.
“So it’s the simple things, really. It’s more about spending time together, going for a simple dinner together. Having a nice bottle of wine together.” Strange then, that the last estimates of Beckham’s wealth stood at £323million.
In 2016 he is believed to have earned the equivalent of more than £70,000 a day. Is there anything less sexy than a rich man pleading poverty?
Even stranger is the fact that he was this week snapped at a Louis Vuitton fashion show in Paris, dripping in the designer’s ludicrously expensive clothing.
The irony is that, in line with the classic mid-life crisis, he has lost any sense of style.
Consider the evidence. Last year he donned sports socks with sandals — the ultimate fashion faux pas and a look even his 18-year-old son Brooklyn would struggle to pull off.
And his eldest boy is forcing him to suffer the fate of many an ageing father who suddenly finds himself in the shadow of his own offspring.
Of course, Becks does his best to compete. The pair regularly wear identical outfits — bomber jackets, skinny jeans, desert boots and caps that David often wears backwards.
And he doesn’t look ridiculous in it . . . well, not always. But it won’t be long before Brooklyn suddenly finds his former cool dad is now a source of embarrassment.
He has already been made to buddy up with Becks — at last year’s Glastonbury he was chaperoned by his dad the whole festival.
And what must David’s son think when he sees his dad with the ultimate mid-life crisis accessory — a motorbike?
Personally, I think nothing is more of a turn-off than a man in his 40s going the full Mad Max in biker leathers, trying to cling to his youth.
This desperate search for a hobby is another classic symptom, which is why we’ve seen him dabbling in everything from jigsaws to fishing.
And who can forget that cringe- worthy episode when he threw his toys out of the pram on hearing he was not going to get a knighthood in 2013? “Unappreciative c***s” was his leaked blast at the honours committee.
Such foul-mouthed and pathetic neediness — and for what? To join the so-called great and the good. Hardly man of the people stuff, was it?
Making the fall from grace worse is the fact that Becks is in denial.
In an interview this week he claimed he wants to mature without the help of any surgical enhancement.
David said: “Definitely cosmetic surgery might be OK for some people. I’m not saying it’s bad. But for me, personally, never. I’ve no interest in doing anything like that.”
Yet just six months ago a few social media observers saw pictures of him and claimed he had already dabbled with Botox — a claim which he swiftly denied.
Perhaps he has taken inspiration from his wife, Victoria, who recently admitted: “I feel happier in my skin now than I did at 20.”
Unfortunately for Mr Beckham, he looks like he needs all the help he can get.
And I’m not sure that being married to one of the most cool, beautiful, stylish people in the world has made his life any easier.
It’s bad enough that he vies with his own sons, but he will now get continually compared to Posh. She is actually a year older than her hubby yet she has always dressed impeccably, is pampered to perfection and knows exactly who she is.
Becks, however, seems lost — though you can’t help but feel a bit sorry for the guy.
His footballing days are now long behind him and three of his kids are approaching adulthood.
The exception is Harper, six, who he seems to dote on like a man desperate to cling on to parenthood.
Which is why we’re now treated to images of him making Lego castles.
All the time he feels the pressure to play the part of an international pin-up, wearing the best clothes, sporting the best haircut and showing off the Beckham hallmarks.
The trouble is, how does a man approaching his mid-40s dress? How long should his hair be? Should he try to stay fashionable and end up looking like mutton dressed as lamb?
How long can he carry on showing his tattoos before he stops looking like a hipster and more like an old sailor?
Becks doesn’t seem to have the answers. The only one who can truly save him is the heroine who created Becks in the first place.
It’s high time Victoria rescued his image, revamping his wardrobe and taking him to whichever swanky Mayfair salon she uses.
She also needs to have a word with him about what pictures he posts on social media — once adored,
Becks now leaves us bored.
And I, for one, am truly over him.