We missed the chance with men like Bobby Moore and Sir Bobby Charlton, and Sir Trevor Brooking has lacked sufficient fire to test the limitations of his FA post but, in Beckham, English football may have a genuine ambassador and a figurehead with the support and profile to effect change.
He could be our Michel Platini or Franz Beckenbauer. He could take on the self-interest of the professional game, and would have the backing of the public if he did. His influence on English football could extend far beyond that of a mere player.
He's no one-trick ponytail: Beckhamcan shine at the centre of the English game
The question is, would the FA have the nerve to be so bold and would Beckham be willing to sign up for a proper job, for the hard yards, minus the ceremony?
We cannot carry on like this, that much is certain. English football is governed and policed by a posse of anonymous no-marks, corporate journeymen without the wit to challenge powerful influences at home or in the Swiss-based fiefdoms of FIFA and UEFA.
And while Beckham might not fit the stereotypical image of the FA suit, he has one advantage over all alternative contenders: the love of the common people.
If David Bernstein, the incoming chairman of the Football Association, wished to take a tough line with the elite clubs, it would barely be noticed. But Beckham?
In a senior position at the FA he would have one of the highest profiles in public life, up there with royalty and the Prime Minister. His every action would carry serious weight; each pronouncement would be widely reported.
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What would his precise position be? Who cares? Beckenbauer did not stay up all night balancing the accounts at the Deutscher Fussball-Bund. Platini was not required to chair interminable fixture meetings at the Federation Francaise de Football (although, considering his background, Beckham could probably teach the marketing department a thing or two).
Beckenbauer and Platini were taken on for their experience and wisdom, because their views were of worth to the game and because they were held in high esteem and respected by the public. Beckenbauer was made a vice-president at the DFB in 1998 and spearheaded the successful bid to host the 2006 World Cup. Platini was co-president of the French organising committee for the 1998 World Cup and later became a vice-president of the FFF.
Beckham has already fulfilled his ambassadorial obligations. It is time he was used as something more than a poster boy or celebrity jailbait for whenever the FA next needs to dazzle a loathsome creature such as FIFA vice-president Jack Warner.
Beckham has presence, as he proved on several public occasions this year. But too often he is used as little more than eye candy, adding celebrity glamour to what might otherwise be a dry affair. All it would take is a little imagination to enable him to have a more positive impact on the development of the English game. Used properly, given power, he could do more good than a whole legion of faceless politicos and bureaucrats such as Lord Triesman, Ian Watmore, or their successors, Bernstein and Alex Horne.
Remember Watmore? He was an accountant and civil servant who, as the FA's former chief executive, took on the might of the Premier League. When the fight did not go his way from the start, he resigned after less than 12 months in the job. His demise brought to mind the funeral of Eleanor Rigby. 'Buried along with her name/nobody came.'
Sure, a few journalists wrote nice epitaphs for Watmore, the ones the FA had courted with tales of how the nasty old Premier League had undermined such a good man, but the public would not recognise this brave warrior if he jumped from the arch over Wembley Stadium. He has now returned to a familiar existence, drawing £142,500 annually as chief operating officer of the Efficiency Reform Group, streamlining human resources in Whitehall.
His FA replacement is Horne, a man who would need to have a Christmas No 1, reach the final of Britain's Got Talent and win the Grand National in his underpants to officially rise to a state of facelessness. Watmore's sacrifice was in vain. He quit, few cared and the Premier League remains as dominant as ever.
Not just a pretty face: Beckham is capable of more than just a cheerleading role
Now imagine the same situation if Beckham was empowered with a mandate for change? Picture the uproar if it was Beckham who announced that he was trying to do his best for the England team, but his job was being made impossible by the vested interests of the wealthiest clubs? Then, at last, the public would be engaged. Then, at last, something might get done.
Instead, where are we now? Trying to find a home for Beckham where he is least effective: on the pitch.
To his credit, Alan Pardew, the Newcastle United manager, set aside considerations of Beckham as ambassador, figurehead, motivator and friend of the marketing department when responding to rumours that he was trying to engineer a short-term loan move for the player in the Major League Soccer close season. He returned the argument to basics by regarding him purely as a body in a black and white shirt.
'We have need for athletic, speedy players, especially in wide areas, to give us something different,' said Pardew. 'I would like more dynamism in the team, and that wouldn't be Beckham.'
He is right, of course. At 36, Beckham's value as an attacking force at the sharpest end of the market has long gone.
Harry Redknapp, manager of Tottenham Hotspur, would appear to be cooling on the idea of giving Beckham his winter fitness fix, too. Many believe Redknapp's initial enthusiasm for the move was inspired as much by frustration with David Bentley as the need to shadow Aaron Lennon with a player who is his complete opposite. After all, with Tottenham's irresistible style this season founded on immense pace on the flanks, why would Redknapp risk that energy grinding to a halt?
Damaged goods: There is a feeling in the MLS that his European loan spells dilute Beckham's American identity
There may yet be a place for Beckham in the Premier League - and he clearly wants one - but resistance to his European sabbaticals is growing in America and his mission to sell the MLS is unlikely to continue beyond the end of his Los Angeles Galaxy contract.
The achilles injury he suffered playing for AC Milan last season was a source of considerable frustration, but just as damaging is the belief among senior MLS executives that each stint in Europe dilutes the perception of Beckham as America's property.
Some feel that while the Milan loans were tolerable, a move to an English club would alter his public identity beyond repair. It may be that by 2012, when his deal ends, he stands a discredited figure and suggestions that he will then buy an MLS franchise and settle in America appear wide of the mark.
This leaves Beckham dangling. What will he do next? He will not retire, because it is not in the man's nature to stand still. If the FA were smart they would already be gauging his intentions, his opinions, his thoughts on the way the game should progress.
In all likelihood, they will not have peered further than the next photo-opportunity. Beckham looking fabulous, breathing life into another dreadful line of FA waxworks. He deserves better, a position of influence this time, not mere window-dressing.
Forget Blackburn Rovers, forget LA and give him a proper job.
AND WHILE WE'RE AT ITFederico Macheda will spend the remainder of the season with Sampdoria in Serie A, having been deemed overstock at Manchester United, even with the closest title race for years and the potential for 17 additional cup fixtures remaining.
United will still hold the registration of a player who has scored four goals in 16 appearances and he may one day get another chance. But it is hard to avoid the thought that Macheda, 20 in August, would have enjoyed many more opportunities had he stayed with Lazio, his first club in Italy.
Lazio lost him due to a loophole in regulations governing player registration. Italian clubs cannot sign a player professionally until his 18th birthday, meaning Premier League rivals with good antennae can act early and pick up a bargain.
They are breaking no rules, but the exploitation of the youth market in this way is highly questionable and Macheda's temporary return very unsatisfactory. This is a player who could have meant much to Lazio and perhaps Italian football. It is hoped he does not come to view his time in England as wasted years.
Good news: no parade Possibly the best news emanating from Australia so far this week is that, with the Ashes retained and the series on the brink of being won, England's cricketers are resisting the opportunity to embark on another victory parade through the streets of London, as happened in 2005.
Back then, lavish celebrations were quickly followed by an Ashes whitewash on the 2006-07 tour and the accusation that players had gone soft, sated by praise.
False dawn: Andrew Flintoff, Kevin Pietersen and Michael Vaughan celebrate in 2005
Fatigue and family ties are offered as the polite excuses on this occasion, with just six days spanning the return from Australia to departure for the Cricket World Cup. Even if there were six months between fixtures, the players should resist.
England have won two of the last three Ashes series, and could make it three of four. An open top bus parade would only serve to create the impression that this latest achievement is a moment to be cherished for its rarity. This is incorrect.
England are hoping to take a serious shot at becoming the first ranked Test team in the world; they are not some bunch of plucky underdogs getting a brief taste of the big time. Bin the celebrations and refocus: that is what the Australians would have done had they won.
At Chelsea, the kids are most definitely not all right. Gael Kakuta looks as if he is involved in first-team football 18 months too early, and Jeffrey Bruma is not a centre half who will inspire confidence in a struggling defence.
Both may prove fine players - and Josh McEachran is a class act, and the pick of the bunch - but right now, Chelsea appear a curious mix of creaking limbs and callow youth. They need a few more inbetweenies to get the balance right.
Doesn't inspire confidence: Chelsea defender Jeffrey Bruma (centre)
At the end, Ronaldinho did not care about getting fit for Barcelona. AC Milan did not do it for him either. Or Brazil. So quite why anyone thinks he would raise his game for Blackburn Rovers is a mystery, even with a ludicrous £20million offer on the table.
If he goes, it will be for one thing: all that free chicken.
Shane Warne's total of 708 Test wickets includes six victims in a 2005 Super Test between Australia and an ICC World XI.
By contrast, Geoff Boycott's 157 for England against the Rest of the World in 1970 is not included in his total of Test centuries. If it were he would be alone on 23 international tons for England, rather than sharing 22 and top billing with Wally Hammond and Colin Cowdrey.
Boycott is campaigning for Warne's 2005 performance to be struck from the record books. He has a point, of course, but it is hard to think favourably of him for it.
Explore more:People: David Beckham, Trevor Brooking, Federico Macheda, Eleanor Rigby, Tom Hicks, Harry Redknapp, Ian Watmore, Aaron Lennon, Jack Warner, George Gillett, Rafael Benitez, David Bentley, Bobby Moore, Geoff Boycott, Shane Warne, Alex Horne, Colin Cowdrey Places: Barcelona, Liverpool, London, Milan, Australia, Italy, United Kingdom, Brazil, America, Europe Organisations: Football Association