David Beckham had to be sold because he had started to think he was bigger than the manager and swapped the opportunity to become a Manchester United legend for fame, Sir Alex Ferguson claims in his book My Autobiography.
Following the incident in which Ferguson struck Beckham with a flying boot in the Manchester United dressing room, the manager said he resolved to sell a player he claimed was "more like a son to me".
Ferguson calls Beckham "a wonderful boy" but accuses him of "surrendering" his talent to chase the celebrity lifestyle and squandering the opportunity to become "an absolute top dog player" and "one of the greatest Man United legends".
The former United manager, who retired in the summer after 27 years at the helm, believes Beckham made a conscious decision to pursue fame at the age of 22 or 23 and that it correlated with a decline in his attitude and work rate on the pitch.
"At that time I was starting to despair of him. I could see him being swallowed up by the media or publicity agents," Ferguson writes, relating an episode where Beckham insisted on keeping his hat on during a team dinner in order to avoid revealing a new hairstyle.
Ferguson describes his "dejection" at the path Beckham took and describes his departure for Real Madrid in £24.5m transfer in 2003 as all but inevitable.
Describing the infamous row following a 2-0 defeat in an FA Cup tie at Old Trafford, Ferguson reveals that during an argument over whether Beckham should have tracked back for Arsenal's second goal he kicked a boot in Beckham's direction from 12 feet that hit the player above the eye.
As he rose to retaliate, Beckham was restrained by his team-mates. "Sit down, I said. You've let your team down, you can argue as much as you like," writes Ferguson.
When he saw photographs of Beckham wearing an alice band to highlight the injury, he resolved to sell the player. "David thought he was bigger than Alex Ferguson. There is no doubt about that in my mind."
Ferguson describes his admiration for Beckham in the way he prolonged his career and tenaciously fought to earn moves to Milan and Paris Saint-Germain after leaving for the US, but the underlying tone is sadness at what he views as a talent squandered.
He said at his press conference: "He fell in love with Victoria and that changed everything. I am a football man. If he had asked my advice when he left Real Madrid for LA Galaxy I would have told him exactly what I thought.
"Maybe in years to come he will think maybe he should have stayed at Real Madrid but I don't think I have been too critical.
"How can you argue with how he has turned out. He's a marvellous boy. He worked to get to the point where he became a great player.
Ferguson pays Beckham the ultimate in backhanded compliments in the book when he says the player showed "more graft" in finding a way back from Los Angeles Galaxy to the top of the European game than he did at the end of his time with United.