David Beckham has retired from football, bringing an end to a glittering career on the field.
On Thursday, Beckham, never the best player in the world but unsurpassed in his era as a cultural phenomenon, announced his impending retirement from soccer at 38.
The announcement was made after his final two games with Paris Saint-Germain, where he won a league title this season.
Confirming the blockbuster announcement, Beckham said: “I’m thankful to PSG for giving me the opportunity to continue but I feel now is the right time to finish my career, playing at the highest level.”
“It’s a good way to go out,” he said in Paris. “It’s every athlete’s dream, every footballer’s dream to go out on the top – on top form or winning a trophy … leaving as a champion.”
Although he never lifted the World Cup, soccer’s ultimate prize, Beckham won enough club honors in his 21-year career to cement his status in the game and went out a winner on both sides of the Atlantic.
He also helped popularize the sport in the United States, playing with the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer.
Since his debut for Manchester United two decades ago, the 38-year-old has emerged as arguably the most iconic sportsman of his generation, captaining England, collecting 115 caps, and celebrated as a champion in four different countries – the only British footballer in history to do so.
As well as winning for England and lifting 19 trophies in two different continents, it was his ability to maximize the power of the “Beckham brand” that allowed the footballer to transcend his sport and appeal to a worldwide mass audience, says CNN.
He became one of the world’s most high-profile sportsmen during his time at Old Trafford – and a global celebrity following his marriage to Spice Girl Victoria Adams in 1999.
He is the only English player to win championships in four countries.
“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 100 times and lined up for some of the biggest clubs in the world, I would have told you it was a fantasy,” he said.
“I’m fortunate to have realised those dreams.”
“To this day, one of my proudest achievements is captaining my country,”Beckham added.
He continued:”I knew every time I wore the Three Lions shirt, I was not only following in a long line of great players, I was also representing every fan that cared passionately about their country.
“I’m honoured to represent England both on and off the pitch … I want to thank all my team-mates, the great managers that I had the pleasure of learning from.
However, Beckham was not just an athlete; he was an international brand that smartly fused a handsomeness that bordered on beauty with athleticism, marketing savvy and an eager embrace of the role of pop idol.
“David Beckham is soccer plus sex; those are the only two things that sell in the world, aren’t they?” said Stefan Szymanski, a British co-author of the book “Soccernomics” and a professor of sports management at the University of Michigan.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter described the midfielder as “one of the most iconic figures in global football.”
“It’s the end of a chapter of an amazing story,” Blatter wrote on Twitter. “David grew up as a football loving child & achieved his dreams, and unquestionably inspired millions of boys & girls to try & do the same.”
Beckham made his England debut against Moldova in 1996 and captained the side from 2000 to 2006, making his 115th and final England appearance in a 3-0 win over Belarus in 2009, says the BBC News.
This year, Beckham became the first ever sportsman from outside of China to be invited to become the ambassador for the sport in the country.
He is estimated to be Britain’s wealthiest sportsman, earning in excess of $46 million a year, according to France Football magazine.
“I wouldn’t have achieved what I have done today without my family,” said Beckham in a statement. “I’m grateful for my parents’ sacrifice, which made me realise my dreams.
“I owe everything to Victoria and the kids, who have given me the inspiration and support to play at the highest level for such a long period.”
Last year, retailer H&M covered almost the entire side of a New York City building with a picture of Beckham in a pair of boxer briefs.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said: “David Beckham has been an outstanding footballer throughout his career.
“Not only that – he has been a brilliant ambassador for this country, not least if we remember all the work he did in helping us win London 2012.”
Beckham’s last game of football will be on the synthetic pitch at Lorient’s 18,110-capacity Stade du Moustoir, with the last home match of his career this Saturday against Brest at Parc des Princes, says the Daily Mail.