By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
It is testament to David Beckham’s still considerable profile that news of his shock omission from the Olympics launched an instant and heated social media debate.
By turning his back on a global icon who can still shift tickets and fill news space like few others, Team GB manager Stuart Pearce was accused of flexing his muscles in the most dramatic and attention-seeking way.
Beckham’s admirers claimed it was unfair on a national treasure who is a son of the East End and played a major role in winning the Games for London in 2005.
What harm would have been done if Pearce had named Beckham as one of the three over-age players in his 18-man squad and given him one last shot on centre stage before the curtain goes down on his top-level career?
|FIVE STARS SET FOR LONDON 2012
| LUIS SUAREZ | URUGUAY
|The Liverpool forward helped his national team win the Copa America last summer and has expressed a desire to be involved in the Olympics this time round as an over-23 pick.|
| EDINSON CAVANI | URUGUAY
|The 25-year-old will hope to take another of Uruguay's three over-age slots and reunite with Suarez as part of a frontline which would strike fear into the heart of any opponent in London.|
| NEYMAR | BRAZIL
|The Santos forward is aged just 20 and already has 18 senior caps and nine goals to his name. The London crowd will be keen to get a look at the starlet who has been strongly linked with a move to Real Madrid.|
| GIOVANI DOS SANTOS | MEXICO
|His struggles to get into the first team at Tottenham are well documented but when it comes to internationals Dos Santos is a different prospect. Still only 23 years old.|
| JUAN MATA | SPAIN
|Yet to feature even as a substitute at Euro 2012, Mata could well be a senior pick for the Spaniards at the Olympics and will be one of few Champions League-winning players on show.|
After all, the boy from Leytonstone, who has matured into a wise head, can still swing that right boot in fairly imperious fashion, even if it is only showcased in a less-demanding league like the MLS.
Pearce has gone against all expectations by omitting the LA Galaxy midfielder. Those who assumed he was a cynical shoo-in because of his celebrity can now chomp on some humble pie at their leisure.
Yet, on a purely football level, it makes complete sense.
Pearce is paid to select a squad that can win the competition. That should be his only consideration, whatever ‘advice’ he may have had from mandarins at the British Olympic Authority, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games or his own employers at the Football Association.
Let’s not forget that Pearce’s own reputation has taken a bit of a battering recently. After taking caretaker charge of the England squad for the February friendly defeat against the Netherlands, he was then overlooked for a role in Roy Hodgson’ backroom staff when the new manager began assembling his coaching team in mid-May.
Pearce’s managerial CV is notable for a mediocre spell at Manchester City back in the days when titles, trophies and A-list players were a distant pipedream.
Five years as England Under-21 boss have produced mixed results - the high water mark of the runners-up spot in the 2009 European Championship, counter-balanced by a disastrous 2011 campaign.
Pearce has weighed up the merits of the potential candidates for the three over-age spots in his squad and concluded that Beckham does not offer the same value as Craig Bellamy, Ryan Giggs and Micah Richards, who have been selected ahead of him.
The former England defender went to America last week to watch Beckham in action. It was the second time that he had flown to the States recently to see him play. Pearce has put in the research and reached a reasonable conclusion.
Beckham has been a regular for LA Galaxy, where he still has 18 months to run on his current deal, this year, contributing five assists and two goals in a league campaign that has scheduled its 17th match on Saturday away to San Jose Earthquakes.
By comparison, Giggs was a regular in a Manchester United team that was a last-second Sergio Aguero goal away from winning the Premier League in May, Bellamy had a highly productive season for Liverpool and Richards finally looked like the defender he had always promised to be for Manchester City.
On a footballing level, the MLS and the top of the Premier League do not compare. Richards will bring power and athleticism to the defence - possibly at centre-back rather than his normal right-back role - and Bellamy can still burn defenders with his acceleration.
There is an argument for saying that Richards should have been snubbed for refusing to go on stand-by duty for England's Euro 2012 squad.
However foolish that move, which smacked of career suicide in international terms, Pearce is the beneficiary of Richards' availability.
If former club colleagues and poster boys Beckham, 37, and Giggs, 38, were playing for one place, it is only correct - sportingly and morally - that the Welshman should get the nod.
Giggs has never showcased his considerable skills in a major tournament. Crucially, he is still doing the business in one of the most competitive club environments in the world.
Pearce has chosen to take the Olympics seriously by picking a serious team that is the best available to him. Brazil, Spain and other leading nations will do the same.
He should not be castigated for that.