David Beckham announces retirement plan
Even as he announced his retirement at the age of 38, four years after his 115th and last cap, David Beckham probably scoured Roy Hodgson's latest England squad for his name, proudly and defiantly "available for selection" to the end.
Though denigrated for his superstar lifestyle and condemned as nothing more than a vehicle for shifting club shirts in the latter stages of his glittering, peripatetic career, Beckham remained a hugely popular figure throughout his homeland, to fans of all allegiances.
The fundamental reason was that, despite the tsunami of advertising, branding and showbusiness that accompanied his every move, he just loved playing football and loved playing football for England most of all.
"I just want people to see me as a hard-working footballer, someone that's passionate about the game, every time I've stepped on a pitch I've given everything that I have," he said after announcing his retirement on Thursday.
"At the end of my career that's how I look back on it and hope people see me."
Three years ago former England boss Fabio Capello said he thought the then-35-year-old was "probably a bit too old" for international football, but Beckham, nicknamed Golden Balls, refused to close the door.
"I will never retire from international football," he said. "If I never get picked again or whether I get picked for one more game or 10 more games I'll be available."
In the latter years of his England career, when he had become a peripheral figure, the announcement of his name over the Wembley PA was nevertheless guaranteed to induce the loudest roar.
When he joined the fray for the final 32 minutes of what turned out to be his last international, a 2010 World Cup qualifier against Belarus, the stadium erupted.
It was not always such a harmonious relationship, however.
In 1998 he was booed throughout the country and his effigy hung from lamp-posts for the crime of petulantly kicking Diego Simeone and earning a red card during the last-16 World Cup defeat by Argentina.
Despite being public enemy number one, Beckham retained his dignity, returned to Old Trafford and poured his energies into his game.
He was a terrific all-round player with a great range of passing and a deadly eye for free kicks but his unique selling point was an almost uncanny ability to deliver mouth-wateringly inviting crosses from every position.
The film in his name was called "Bend it like Beckham" but the key factor was that nobody could.
A year after the pain of his St Etienne red card he was celebrating helping Manchester United to their remarkable treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup, while he continued his international rehabilitation with ever-more authoritative displays.
He was first given the honour of captaining his country under caretaker coach Peter Taylor and he held the armband for the next six years, during which time he became the heartbeat of the team.
His inspired, freakishly energised display in the 2002 World Cup qualifier against Greece at Old Trafford, when his last-gasp free kick earned the draw that sent England to the finals, was probably the most memorable of his 115 internationals.
His stock mirrored the team's as he converted a penalty to gain national and personal World Cup revenge over Argentina in the group stage of the 2002 tournament only to contribute to Brazil's key goal en route to a quarter-final exit soon after.
His skied penalty in the quarter-final shootout defeat by Portugal in Euro 2004 was another painful moment, as were his touchline tears two years later when England lost to the same opposition at the same stage in the World Cup in Germany.
Distraught, he gave up the captaincy and when Steve McClaren took over as England manager he tried to make a statement of intent by dropping Beckham.
Beckham barely murmured, saying only that he remained available should the situation change.
A year later, still tearing up trees for Real Madrid, McClaren had no option but to recall him.
He went on to pass the 100 caps mark and eventually reach 115, a England record for an outfield player and topped only by the 125 of goalkeeper Peter Shilton.
Even though a ruptured achilles ruled out any chance of a last hurrah at the 2010 World Cup, Beckham jumped at the chance to help out the manager who had dropped him.
Acting as a "player liaison" he said he would happily carry the kit if it helped England succeed.
By then he had moved to the United States, again ignoring the fusillade of criticism that he was doing it only for money.
True enough, LA Galaxy earned a massive worldwide profile on the back of the deal but ask any of his team mates if they thought Beckham was there for a cushy retirement and you would get short shrift.
He duly helped Galaxy to successive MLS titles, while keeping his hand in back in Europe with loan spells in Milan, before leaving California for good for his final port of call at Paris St Germain.
He announced that he would donate all his salary to charity and at the end of his first season PSG were champions and Beckham, having also tasted glory with United and Real, became the first Englishman to win domestic titles in four countries.
By then, of course, his fame and fortune had spread beyond the wildest of wild dreams of the London schoolboy who always wanted to join United.
From the nervy, high-pitched youngster, the butt of easy jokes, Beckham developed into a smoothly articulate statesmen.
He was as comfortable alongside world leaders as he helped London's bid to land the 2012 Olympics as he was kicking a rag ball around with dirt-poor children on visits to the townships of South Africa.
Such is Beckham's wholesome image he was recently roped in as China's global soccer ambassador to repair the game's stained reputation there after a match-rigging scandal.
Last month he was named Britain's richest sportsman while his former pop star-turned designer wife Victoria is a multi-millionaire industry in her own right.
The fame and ridiculous fortune, however, have never been his driving force.
Earlier this year, having trained with Arsenal in a bid to keep sharp after leaving LA Galaxy, manager Arsene Wenger summed up the twice world player of the year runner-up thus:
"This guy has fantastic quality and has done the maximum in his career. Why? Because he loves football."
BEX'S TROPHY CASE
A look at the titles won by David Beckham, who said he will retire from football at the end of the season:
Premier League: 6 (1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003)
FA Cup: 2 (1996, 1999)
Community Shield: 4 (1994, 1995, 1997, 1998)
FA Youth Cup: 1 (1992)
Champions League: 1 (1999)
Intercontinental Cup: 1 (1999)
Spanish league: 1 (2007).
Spanish Super Cup: 1 (2003).
Los Angeles Galaxy
MLS Cup: 2 (2011, 2012).
French league: 1 (2013)
Highlights in the career of David Beckham:
1975 - Born May 2 in Leytonstone, east London.
1991 - Joins Manchester United as trainee.
1993 - Signs professional contract at Old Trafford.
1996 - Wins first FA Cup and Premier League title at Manchester United; Scores goal of season with shot from halfway line; Makes England debut against Moldova.
1997 - Wins second Premier League medal at United; Voted PFA Young Player of the Year.
1998 - Scores first England goal against Colombia at World Cup; Sent off against Argentina and briefly becomes hated figure in England.
1999 - Wins third Premier League title at Man United, along with FA Cup and Champions League trophies; Runner-up in World Player of the Year awards.
2000 - Wins fourth Premier League title medal at Man United; named England captain.
2001 - Wins fifth Premier League title at Man United; Curls in last-minute free kick against Greece to send England to World Cup.
2003 - Man United manager Alex Ferguson accidentally kicks boot into Beckham's face after FA Cup loss to Arsenal; wins sixth Premier League medal; Awarded OBE for services to football; moves to Real Madrid and wins Spanish Super Cup.
2004 - Misses penalty as England loses to Portugal in shootout in Euro 2004 quarterfinals.
2005 - Captains England for 50th time in friendly against Argentina in Geneva.
2006 - Quits as England captain after World Cup quarterfinal exit to Portugal; Dropped from England squad for friendly against Greece.
2007 - Wins Spanish league with Real Madrid; Joins Major League Soccer club Los Angeles Galaxy on five-year contract; Gets England recall.
2008 - Makes 100th England appearance.
2009 - Joins AC Milan on loan; Wins 109th cap to break Bobby Moore's record for an outfield player, makes 115th and final appearance against Belarus.
2010 - Tears Achilles tendon and misses World Cup.
2011 - Wins MLS Cup with Galaxy.
2012 - Re-signs with Galaxy and wins second MLS Cup.
2013 - Signs five-month contract with Paris Saint-Germain, donating salary to a children's charity; PSG clinches French league title, Beckham becomes first Englishman to win league titles in four different countries.
DAVID BECKHAM FACTBOX
Here is a look at the life and career of former England captain David Beckham who announced his retirement:
- Beckham was born on May 2, 1975 in London. He joined Manchester United as a 16-year-old trainee in 1991. By 1995 he became a regular during the club's most successful era.
- They won the Premier League and FA Cup double during his first full season. During the 1996/97 campaign he scored from the halfway line in an opening day victory over Wimbledon.
- In 1999 the team went one further, winning the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League treble.
- Beckham made his England debut on Sept. 1, 1996 in a World Cup qualifier against Moldova. Two years later he scored in the finals against Colombia but went home from France in disgrace after being sent off for kicking out at Argentina midfielder Diego Simeone in a last-16 defeat.
- In England, Beckham was widely blamed for the defeat and slammed by the tabloid newspapers.
- Beckham captained England on the first of 58 occasions against Italy in a friendly in November 2000 and the next year booked them a place in the 2002 World Cup finals with a stunning injury-time free kick, salvaging a 2-2 draw against Greece. England were knocked out by Brazil in the quarter-finals.
- In 2006, he resigned as England captain after his side lost in the World Cup quarter-finals to Portugal, who knocked them out at the same stage of Euro 2004.
- Beckham returned to the team a year later and earned 115 caps, an England outfield record. His last international appearance was against Belarus at Wembley in October 2009.
- Beckham missed playing for England at the 2010 World Cup after he ruptured his Achilles tendon while on loan at AC Milan in March. Manager Fabio Capello asked him to accompany the team in an advisory role and announced that he would not be picked for England's attempt to qualify for Euro 2012.
- Beckham signed for Real Madrid from United for 25 million pounds ($41 million) in 2003 and after the Spanish club went three seasons without a major trophy, the team won the league title in 2007.
- He joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in July 2007 in a mega-money deal in a bid to promote soccer in the United States.
- Beckham won a second successive Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup at the end of 2012 and went back to Europe where he trained with Arsenal, although club manager Arsene Wenger said they were not interested in signing him.
- In March, China named Beckham as its first global football ambassador to revive the game's image there. Soccer in China was hit by a match-fixing scandal and an exodus of international stalwarts from the country's premier league. In his new role, Beckham, would be expected to help bring Chinese Super League (CSL) to the world stage and promote the game in the world's most populous country.
PARIS ST GERMAIN
- After rumours in 2011 that Beckham was joining PSG - sports daily L'Equipe ran a front page saying "Le Voile!" (Here he comes!), - he finally joined the Parisian club in January 2013 on a five-month deal. Beckham also announces his salary at PSG will be donated to a children's charity in Paris.
- Beckham enjoyed a promising French league debut for PSG in February, enjoying warm crowd support in a late cameo during the 2-0 home victory over Olympique Marseille.
- Last month he picked up a straight red card as Paris St Germain continued their march towards a first French league title. They finally won that first championship in 19 years last Sunday with a 1-0 win at Olympique Lyon - with Beckham coming on in added time.
- He becomes first English player to win league titles in four different countries - Manchester United (England), Real Madrid (Spain), LA Galaxy (US) and PSG (France).
OFF THE PITCH
- Beckham met Victoria Adams in the mid-1990s when she was a member of pop group the Spice Girls. The perfect media match-up, the couple were instantly catapulted into the limelight.
- Beckham and Adams married in July 1999, a few months after their first son Brooklyn was born. They have three other children.