David Beckham, the world’s most famous footballer, will bring the curtain down on his remarkable playing career at the end of the season believing that it was written in the stars that he should retire now.
The 38-year-old will follow his old mentor Sir Alex Ferguson into retirement after a stellar 21-year career that has seen him win league titles in four countries – at Manchester United, Real Madrid, Los Angeles Galaxy and this season at Paris St Germain.
Beckham, England’s most-capped outfield player, said it had always been his dream to call it a day while he was still at the top.
In a Sky Sports News interview with Gary Neville, his former team-mate who was the best man at his wedding to Spice Girl wife Victoria, Beckham said: “It’s every athlete’s dream, it’s every footballer’s dream to go out on top form or winning a trophy. It doesn’t happen that often.
“I’ve been lucky: when I left United we won the league, when I left Madrid we won the league, leaving Galaxy after winning the championship there and then coming here (Paris) and winning the league.
“It’s nice to go out like that, it’s written, it’s simple.”
Beckham made his debut for Manchester United in 1992, winning six league titles and the Champions League before moving to Real Madrid and then Los Angeles Galaxy, plus loan spells at AC Milan.
He made his England debut in 1996 and would go on to be the Three Lions’ most capped outfield player with 115 appearances. He was the first English player to score in three consecutive World Cups.
His move to the USA did not diminish his commercial appeal – rather it enhanced it, and recently he has become an ambassador for sport for China as well as agreeing a number of other commercial tie-ups that has maintained his position as the world’s richest footballer with an estimated fortune for £165m.
His commercial appeal and celebrity lifestyle has sometimes created more headlines than his actions on the pitch, and Beckham admitted he had been hurt by those who sought to criticise his approach.
“Over the years people have obviously looked at other things that have gone on in my career and sometimes that’s overshadowed what I’ve done on the pitch,” he added. “As much as I say that doesn’t hurt me, of course it does.
“At the end of the day I’m a footballer who has played for some of the biggest clubs in the world, with some of the best players in the world, and under some of the biggest and best managers, and achieved almost everything in football.
“It hurts when people – not question it – but think about other things.
“I hope people will remember me as a hard-working footballer, someone who was passionate about the game and someone that gave everything that they have, because that’s how I feel.
“To come to the end of my career now and look back and say I’ve achieved everything with every club I’ve ever played for, played for my country 115 times, been runner-up twice in the World Player of the Year to two amazing footballers (Rivaldo and Figo), I’m very proud of that.
Beckham added: “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.
“I’m fortunate to have realised those dreams.”
Beckham will spend the next few months considering numerous different offers before deciding on his next big move.
One definite long-term aim will be to own a franchise in Major League Soccer in the USA – the current fee to buy in is $40m but Beckham has made it clear that he will pursue that avenue.
There are certain to be offers from the Football Association for Beckham to become an ambassador for the English game – FA chairman David Bernstein spoke yesterday about the wish to form a “close association” with him, and England manager Roy Hodgson said he hoped he would stay “close to the game”.
Beckham’s road to soccer legend
1992-2003: Manchester United.
1994-1995: Preston North End (loan).
2003-2007: Real Madrid.
2007-2012: Los Angeles Galaxy.
2009-2010: Loan spells at AC Milan.
2013: Paris St-Germain.