Soccer: Beckham to call it quits, 'leaving as a champion'

2013-05-17T00:00:00Z Soccer: Beckham to call it quits, 'leaving as a champion'The Associated Press The Associated Press
May 17, 2013 12:00 am  • 

LONDON - End it like Beckham.

David Beckham, whose curling free kicks, rugged good looks and celebrity marriage made him one of the most famous athletes in the world, is retiring from soccer.

Whether striding on the grass, the red carpet or the fashion catwalks, Beckham transcended his sport and became its highest-paid player, with a fortune estimated at $250 million.

The 38-year-old former England captain said Thursday he will quit after his final two games with Paris Saint-Germain, where he won a league title this season.

"It's a good way to go out," he said in Paris. "It's every athlete's dream, every footballer's dream to go out on the top - on top form or winning a trophy … leaving as a champion."

Although he never lifted the World Cup, soccer's ultimate prize, Beckham won enough club honors in his 21-year career to cement his status in the game and went out a winner on both sides of the Atlantic. He also helped popularize the sport in the United States, playing with the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter described the midfielder as "one of the most iconic figures in global football."

"It's the end of a chapter of an amazing story," Blatter wrote on Twitter. "David grew up as a football loving child & achieved his dreams, and unquestionably inspired millions of boys & girls to try & do the same."

Beckham's fame went beyond the game. Guided by his wife, former Spice Girl Victoria Adams, the dashing Beckham was known as much for his fashion as his feet, with ever-changing hairstyles, nail polish and sometimes outrageous outfits. In 2002, Salon dubbed him "the biggest metrosexual in Britain."

Last year, retailer H&M covered almost the entire side of a New York City building with a picture of Beckham in a pair of boxer briefs.

"Sometimes that has overshadowed what I have done on the pitch or what I have achieved on the pitch," Beckham said in a television interview conducted by former United teammate Gary Neville. "And as much as I say that doesn't hurt me, of course it does."

Beckham was immortalized in the 2002 movie "Bend it Like Beckham," which told the story of a British teenage girl of south Asian heritage struggling with family pressures and cultural expectations to play the sport she loves. Beckham's retirement led to a flood of tweets dubbing the day "End it Like Beckham."

He began his career with Manchester United and also played for Real Madrid and Los Angeles, winning titles with all those clubs. He played on loan with AC Milan and made 115 appearances for his country, a record in England for someone other than a goalkeeper.

Stoppage time

• Landon Donovan was left off the 29-man U.S. squad for a training camp ahead of a trio of World Cup qualifiers next month. But American coach Jurgen Klinsmann anticipates he will rejoin the team at some unspecified point.

Donovan, a 31-year-old midfielder who played for the last three U.S. World Cup teams, took a sabbatical of nearly four months after last season, returning to the field with the Los Angeles Galaxy on March 30.

"I think Landon is catching up," Klinsmann said. "We're all excited that he has decided to continue to play. That was the first major answer that we needed to get, and now he's just working himself back into shape and back into a playing rhythm."

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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