David Beckham, one of the most recognizable athletes on the planet, will retire when his French team’s season ends May 26.
Beckham, 38, has two games remaining with Paris Saint-Germain, which had offered him a contract extension. However, he chose follow another soccer great, his former Manchester United coach, Sir Alex Ferguson, into retirement, as the Daily Mail Online first reported.
“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,” he said in a statement.
“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 100 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 realized those dreams.”
Beckham made his debut with Manchester United in 1992, then moved to Real Madrid and to the Los Angeles Galaxy of the MLS in the United States. He joined PSG in January and helped the club win its first title in 19 years Sunday. He won the Champions League title with Man-U in 1999 as well as league titles with Real Madrid, AC Milan and the Galaxy.
He is among a handful of superstar athletes who have established themselves as an international brand, so his profile is not likely to be diminished by retirement. Beckham’s endorsements, as well as his marriage to former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, place him firmly in the fashion and sports worlds.
Beckham, who won the Champions League with Manchester United in 1999, also won league titles with Real Madrid, AC Milan and Los Angeles Galaxy before arriving in the French capital earlier this year.
Believed to be his country’s wealthiest sportsman, Beckham’s athletic career had been waning in recent years. He was passed over when England’s Olympic soccer team was selected last June, but he was given a highly visible role during the Opening Ceremony.
“Nothing will ever completely replace playing the game I love. However, I feel like I’m starting a new adventure and I’m genuinely excited about what lies ahead,” he said. “I’m fortunate to have been given many opportunities throughout my career and now I feel it’s my time to give back.”
Beckham regards being captain of England’s team as one of his “proudest achievements.”
“I knew every time I wore the Three Lions shirt, I was not only following in a long line of great players, I was also representing every fan that cared passionately about their country,” he said (via CNN). “I’m honored to represent England both on and off the pitch. I want to thank all my teammates, the great managers that I had the pleasure of learning from.
“I also want to thank the fans who have all supported me and given me the strength to succeed.”