LONDON, UK — International soccer superstar and metrosexual vanguard David Beckham announced his retirement from professional soccer today, capping a 21-year career that brought him global fame for his on- and off-field exploits.
Beckham, 38, will retire at the end of his season with Paris Saint-Germain, his current team, after helping it win a French league championship.
“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,” the former England captain said in a statement.
Raised in East London, Beckham made his professional debut with Manchester United as a teenager in 1992. He first appeared for the England national team in 1996 and went on to play 115 games for his country, many as captain.
Beckham's best years came when he played with Manchester United, helping it win six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the 1999 Champions League title.
In 1998, a gratuitous kick to an Argentinian player’s calf earned him a red card and the rage of fans who believed it cost England a shot at the 1998 World Cup. Effigies wearing Beckham’s jersey were hung and burned in towns across the country.
He redeemed himself with a superlative performance against Greece in 2001, culminating in a thrilling last-minute goal that sent England to the 2002 World Cup.
His globe-trotting career included stints at Real Madrid, LA Galaxy and AC Milan. Along the way, Beckham became one of the best-known sportsmen in the world. A consulting firm found that “Beckham” was the second-most recognized foreign word in Japan after “Coca-Cola.”
"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 his statement. "I'm fortunate to have realized those dreams."
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His camera-ready looks earned countless endorsement and modeling deals, despite a near-dainty speaking voice and a public persona that Times sportswriter Matthew Syed described as “so unmemorable and banal that he appears as a blank slate, a canvas upon which we project our own aspirations and anxieties.”
He is estimated to be Britain's richest athlete, earning more than $46 million a year, and married Spice Girl Victoria Beckham in 1999. “Posh and Becks” have four children.
Following Beckham’s announcement, the betting agency Ladbrokes issued a press release saying that the odds for Beckham receiving a knighthood had just dropped to 1 to 4.