David Beckham has retired from professional football at the age of 38. The former England captain and fashion icon leaves the game a ten-time league champion in twenty seasons – winning six titles with Manchester United, two with Los Angeles Galaxy and one each with Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.
He will be remembered for a great many things – scoring from midfield to announce his arrival, romancing a Spice Girl and transcending his sport more than any other footballer. In some ways it’s a pity that his global fame has overshadowed his formidable footballing ability, for he was a truly outstanding midfielder for Man U. He was absolutely brilliant with his dead-ball delivery and could deliver a Hollywood assist better than anyone of his generation outside retirement companion Paul Scholes.
A cross from David Beckham? On time, every time.
He will go down as the defining player of his generation, a name for the ages carrying greater widespread appeal than those who accomplished more on the field like former teammates Ryan Giggs, Raul and Andrea Pirlo. The names forever linked with football from the late 90s and early 2000s will begin with David Beckham.
|(c) Balanced Sports - from author's own collection|
Beckham’s singular talent wasn’t for football or a particular skill within it, but an immense charisma that saw everyone seek his approval (aside from one or two particular managers). So powerful was the impression left by his simple and dignified affect that he belongs in the Athletic Charisma Hall of Fame alongside the likes of Michael Jordan and founder member Muhammad Ali. While these two boasted a more primal and combative magnetism, Beckham’s appeal is based around a graceful and understated – almost minimalist – style.
The other skill that David Beckham perfected was an ability to make money. This is inextricably linked to his other singular asset: his bearing created a demand that expanded his pocketbook exponentially. It’s hard to rationalize an athlete making the lucrative money he has, and even harder to justify. However, considering the amount of rabid publicity he and his family endured, he deserved every penny. Even in his last season, he earned £30 million – including a rich contract for a dozen appearance from PSG’s bench that only further heightened his public appeal.
He leaves the game with as much class as he entered it. When a young David Beckham sent a 45-yard ball floating past Wimbledon ‘keeper Neil Sullivan, the football world opened up to him and anything seemed possible. Now, as he now walks into a much larger world, the same could be said again.
Anything is possible.