Beckham 38 has played his final season for Paris St. Germain adding a French league championship to the ones he won in England with Manchester United in Spain with Real Madrid and in the United States with the Los Angeles Galaxy. His achievements on the field and smart branding by his camp and the shoe company Adidas made him an icon of his generation and a household name everywhere the game is played.
If you had told me as a young boy I would have played for and won trophies with my boyhood club Manchester United proudly captained and played for my country over one hundred times and lined up for some of the biggest clubs in the world I would have told you it was a fantasy Beckham said in a statement. I m fortunate to have realized those dreams.
Over the course of his career Beckham became as much a pop culture figure as a soccer player. He married a Spice Girl the former Victoria Adams and they own an Italian villa in Beverly Hills. His face adorns billboards in dozens of countries. According to Forbes he was the world s highest paid soccer player in 2012 at $50.6 million including his endorsements which also made him the eighth highest paid athlete in the world. His signature free kick inspired a 2002 movie called Bend It Like Beckham. A film exhibit at Britain s National Portrait Gallery in 2004 consisted entirely of him taking a nap.
His country not only hailed his soccer skill but also his contributions in helping London land the 2012 Olympics. He employed his considerable star power in the successful Olympic bid.
Beckham s soccer glory years came at Manchester United where he won six Premier League titles two F.A. Cups and the 1999 Champions League title under Manager Alex Ferguson who also retired this month.
One of his Manchester United teammates Gary Neville tried to sum up Beckham s impact.
He played in the greatest midfield I ve ever played with David Ryan Giggs Roy Keane and Paul Scholes Neville said to The Guardian. David was a crosser of the ball a passer of the ball. He had incredible stamina and energy. He was a joy to play with.
And when you think back on the way football has changed over the last 22 years he has probably been the most influential player in that time out of England in terms of transforming football.
Every clothing garment he wore every hairstyle was followed not just in football but out of football.
When Beckham left Manchester United at the height of his career he joined Real Madrid in the summer of 2003 in a blockbuster transfer worth $45 million.
His next move was to the Galaxy in 2007 where his mere presence lifted the profile of then struggling Major League Soccer. And while he angered fans with two off season loans to A.C. Milan in Italy he helped deliver league championships in 2011 and 2012 before leaving after last season.
Beckham also made 115 appearances for England a record for an outfield player and represented his country in three World Cups (1998 2002 2006) although the closest he came to winning was the quarterfinal round (in 2002 and 2006). He might have played in a fourth in 2010 but he tore his Achilles tendon three months before the opening while playing for A.C. Milan.
Instead he was invited to join Coach Fabio Capello s staff as a liaison between the coaches and the players. That could be a hint of his plans for life after his playing career if his decision is indeed final though he has long been rumored to be interested in club ownership especially in Major League Soccer. He has accepted a role as an ambassador for Chinese soccer which will include personal appearances to help boost the popularity of the sport in that country.
I m thankful to P.S.G. for giving me the opportunity to continue but I feel now is the right time to finish my career playing at the highest level Beckham said.
There is a fitting twist to Beckham s announcing his exit barely a week after Ferguson did the same. The two reigned over English soccer together winning six Premier League titles between 1996 and 2003. The two had a falling out in 2003 when an irate Ferguson kicked a cleat on the floor of the locker room during a tirade and it hit Beckham in the head. They have mended their relationship since and both became legends in their own right.
In the end Beckham said he hopes he is not remembered for his celebrity but for his performances on the fieid.
I want people to see me as a hardworking footballer someone who when he steps on the pitch he gives everything he s got Beckham said. When I look back on my career that is how I look back on it and that is how I hope people have seen me.
But separating Beckham the player from Beckham the cultural phenomenon is nearly impossible. Most soccer stars retirements are not greeted by a statement from the prime minister.
A Downing Street spokesman passed along Prime Minister David Cameron s sentiment Thursday The prime minister s view is that David Beckham has been an outstanding footballer throughout his career but not only that he has been a brilliant ambassador for this country not least if we remember all the work he did on helping us win London 2012 the spokesman said.
Perhaps he will simply be remembered as the most famous soccer player on earth.
All over the world you say David Beckham and people know who that is said the former manager of England s international team Sven Goran Eriksson. I don t think any other football player is more popular than he.