On the anniversary of David Beckham’s tearful swansong, Mirror Football takes a look back at the emotional night in Paris where the England icon finally called it a day
In recent years, football has become awash with bonafide superstars – but before the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo became bigger than football, David Beckham was the first star to truly transcend the sport.
After breaking through with ‘The Class of 92’ at Manchester United, Beckham went on to evolve into one of English football’s biggest ever stars. Although international success eluded England’s posterboy, the 47-year-old enjoyed an illustrious, trophy-laden career and even managed to win four league titles in four different countries amongst a host of other accolades.
Even though Beckham – who called time on his career on this very day back in 2013 – has long since hung up his boots, very few in the game can hold a candle to his glittering resume. After rising to prominence with United, Beckham made headlines with a blockbuster move to Real Madrid before blazing a trail with his history-making switch to LA Galaxy.
However, Beckham made a surprise return to the biggest stage in Europe during the twilight years of his career with temporary stints at AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain. It was during his time in Paris that Beckham made the decision to call time on his storied career, with the former England captain bidding an emotional farewell to the professional game just weeks after he went public with his plans to retire.
Beckham arrived at the Parc des Princes at the age of 37, but the winger was still as influential as ever during his final innings. After joining PSG in January, Beckham racked up 14 appearances and even lifted the Ligue 1 title during his whirlwind spell in the French capital.
But the most iconic image of Beckham’s stint in Paris was the sight of him in leaving the pitch in tears during his final ever match against Brest. Beckham was withdrawn in the 80th minute on the night to a standing ovation, as he bid an emotional final farewell to the sport that catapulted him into superstardom.
Unsurprisingly, Beckham – who is widely considered as one of England’s most influential players after racking up 155 senior caps – was honoured with a host of gushing tributes after his tear-jerking curtain call.
Speaking on Beckham’s retirement back in 2013, former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson – who struck up a close relationship with Beckham – said: “A fantastic football player, a fantastic man, probably the biggest sports personality in the world. If you talk about David Beckham, all over the world they know who that it is.
“I don’t think there is any other football player more popular than him. I remember all the matches with England and all the travelling – airports, hotels – and it was all about Beckham all the time. I rank him very, very highly. I never had any doubts about picking him”
Beckham’s former England and Manchester United team-mate Gary Neville echoed those sentiments. He said: “It does feel like it’s the end of an era, the end of a generation. David was different – he was a crosser of the ball, a passer of the ball, he was a joy to play with… He has probably been the most influential player out of England in transforming football. The impact he has had is enormous.”
Neville also paid tribute to Beckham and his trailblazing moves abroad and his longevity in the sport. He added: “You look at it and think ‘wow’, he’s got an incredible array of caps and medals, an incredible longevity. He played in the greatest midfield I’ve ever played with: David, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane and Paul Scholes. David was a crosser of the ball, a passer of the ball. He had incredible stamina and energy. He was a joy to play with.
“And when you think back on the way football has changed over the last 22 years, he has probably been the most influential player in that time out of England in terms of transforming football. In leaving the country, to Milan, LA, Paris, he has transported England around the world and that’s something he was aware of and wanted to do. Every clothing garment he wore, every hairstyle was followed – not just in football but out of football.”
Speaking to Neville after his retirement was announced, Beckham shared his pride at all he’d achieved for both club and country. Beckham said: “I just want people to see me as a hard-working footballer, someone that’s passionate about the game and someone who every time I’ve stepped on the pitch I’ve given everything that I have, because that’s how I feel. I think over the years, my life and my career, people have looked at other things that have gone on, and sometimes I think that’s overshadowed what I’ve done on the pitch or what I’ve achieved.
“As much as I say that doesn’t hurt me, of course it does. I’m a footballer that’s played for some of the biggest clubs in the world, played with some of the best players in the world, played under some of the biggest and best managers, and achieved almost everything in football, so it hurts when people think about other things.
“To come to the end of my career now and look back and say I’ve achieved everything with every club I’ve played for, played for my country 115 times, been runner up twice in the World Player of the Year, I’m very proud of that.”