Such is the hyperbole surrounding David Beckham's every movement, sometimes it is difficult to determine the actual newsworthiness of his latest story. However, while British broadcasters inevitably exaggerated the importance of his role in PSG's 2-2 draw with Barcelona, it was unquestionably an extremely bold move from Carlo Ancelotti.
Beckham wasn't simply starting the game – he was starting in a key role within an extremely adventurous system. There had been speculation that he would be drafted into the PSG side as an additional midfielder to help compete against Barcelona's sublime midfield duo, but Ancelotti instead selected four attacking players: Ezequiel Lavezzi dropping off Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with the playmakers Javier Pastore and Lucas Moura darting inside from wide roles. Beckham was partnering Blaise Matuidi, a mobile, energetic player who breaks forward in the manner of Chelsea's Ramires – so the Englishman was forced to sit deep and launch dangerous forward passes to prompt quick counterattacks.
PSG were rather fortunate with both their goals – Ibrahimovic was clearly offside for the first, and Matuidi's strike took a deflection on its way past Víctor Valdés – and Lionel Messi's absence from the second half should not be ignored. But overall, their strategy worked extremely effectively. Lavezzi dropped on to Sergio Busquets to ensure PSG weren't outnumbered in the centre of the pitch, while Beckham and Matuidi dealt with Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta superbly – not pressing relentlessly, nor dropping back and allowing constant Barcelona pressure. Instead, they stayed tight, closed down when Xavi or Iniesta received forward passes, and minimised the space between themselves and their centre‑backs, forcing Messi to drop deep to receive possession.
In a sense, Ancelotti had the ideal counterattacking side. In the centre, he had a midfielder famed for his accurate long passes, combined with a younger player who could dart forward on the break. Out wide, he fielded two enigmatic South American playmakers who are happiest when running directly with the ball. Up front, Lavezzi boasts lightning acceleration, while Ibrahimovic is so much more than a target man, but is superb at battling with opposition centre-backs and collecting long balls.
Frankly, an attacking quartet that cost €135m (£114m) to assemble should be capable of competing against any opponent (and the cheapest of the four, Ibrahimovic, became the world's second-highest paid footballer when moving to Paris last summer), but it was nevertheless a fine display from PSG, and arguably the first time Ancelotti's tactics in a single game were commendable.
Ancelotti used talented, creative players but instructed them to stay disciplined without the ball. That provided an effective balance between defence and attack.
Ancelotti was braver than many coaches against Barça, and his side deserved their slice of fortune.