There is no player in the history of the game who has done more to promote English football than David Beckham. And his retirement at the age of 38 will trigger tributes from around the world because his contribution to the sport has been unique.
Icon, celebrity, legend, superstar, ambassador. No one can bend it like Beckham. And no-one has given back so much to the beautiful game.
He may not be the greatest footballer who ever played the game. But Becks represents something special. Throughout his career he has made the most of his incredible talent, consistently revelled in proving the critics wrong when they have tried to write him off and brought glamour, dignity and pride to representing his country and a glittering array of the world’s most famous football clubs.
At Old Trafford he starred in the team that won an unprecedented Treble in 1999. But when Manchester United sold him to Real Madrid in 2003 after his infamous fall-out with his mentor and father-figure Sir Alex Ferguson, Becks was being outshone by a galaxy of stars.
It has been the same in Madrid, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris and during his long and illustrious England career. But there is no footballer who has worked harder to make the most of his god given talent, to defy the critics who regularly tried to write him off or to win over the fans who did not always love him.
There is no greater measure of the man than the way he turned around the obscene hatred he endured after being sent off in the 1998 World Cup for petulantly kicking out in that epic quarter-final defeat by Argentina.
The way he singled-handedly dragged England to the 2002 World Cup with an unbelievable performance in the decisive qualifying match against Greece was the stuff of legend, crowned by his remarkable injury time free-kick that completed the journey from villain of 98 to glorious hero.
Born on 2 May 1975, David Robert Joseph Beckham made his name playing for his boyhood heroes Manchester United. As a youngster he attended one of Bobby Charlton’s football schools in Manchester and won the chance to take part in a training session at FC Barcelona. After trials with Leyton Orient, Norwich City and Tottenham Hotspur, he became part of a famous group of youngsters who won the FA Youth Cup for Manchester United in May 1992.
He went on loan to Preston in 1994/95 before returning to Old Trafford and making his Premier League debut for Manchester United in a goal-less draw against Leeds United on 2 April 1995. At United he went on to win six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the European Champions League with United in that famous Treble-winning year of 1999.
In 2003 he signed for Real Madrid where he spent four years winning the La Liga championship in his final season before joining LA Galaxy. His five-year spell in America included a mid-season loan spell with AC Milan in 2009. He finally left the States to join Paris Saint-Germain in 2013 where he bows out at the top after winning the French League.
Beckham’s international career saw him win 115 caps for England between 1996 and 2009, including six years as captain. Twice runner-up for the FIFA World Player of the Year, he was the world’s highest-paid footballer in 2004 when his commercial earnings boosted his salary at Real Madrid.