One of the most recognisable sportsmen on the planet, Beckham has enjoyed the spotlight since making his Premier League debut for Manchester United in 1995. Cast as both hero and villain during his career, he was taunted and abused after being sent off against Argentina in 1998, but won back the public’s affection and rose to captain his country.
Emerging through the youth ranks at Old Trafford, Beckham quickly confirmed his potential as a superstar with his dazzling range of passing skills and deadly free-kick ability. Establishing himself on the right side of midfield, he won six league titles and two FA Cups during his time in England, while he was also part of the famous treble winning side of 1999.
His role as World Cup villain saw his face his toughest challenge, but gaining the armband and sealing qualification to the 2002 event with a last-gasp free-kick against Greece he overcame his demons and played a pivotal role in the following years.
A £25 million move to Real Madrid in 2003 confirmed his status as one of the best players in the world, but it was not his happiest time and he only picked up the La Liga title in his last year. Choosing to move to the MLS with the L.A. Galaxy in 2007, Beckham became a figurehead for American soccer, but caused controversy when he decided to join AC Milan on loan during the off-season. Picking up an achilles injury a few months before the 2010 World Cup, he suffered heartache again in his career and missed out.
However, upon his return Beckham helped the Galaxy to their second successive Western Conference title and first MLS Supporters’ Shield since 2002. In November 2011, he joined an elite group of players to have won three league titles in three different countries, when the Galaxy won their third MLS Cup against Houston Dynamo. A feat which he repeated again the following season.
Despite having signed a new two-year deal in January 2012, Beckham chose to end his association with the club at the end of the year and sought a new challenge in 2013, signing for Paris Saint-Germain.
During a successful six-month spell in Paris, Beckham helped PSG to the Champions League quarter-finals where they were eliminated on away goals by Barcelona and played a minor part as they won their first league title since 1994.
Days after the title was wrapped up with a 1-0 win against Lyon, Beckham announced his retirement from football at the age of 38.
He said in a statement: “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.
“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 one hundred 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 realised those dreams.”
Strengths: An incredible crosser of the ball, Beckham has the ability to put the ball where he wants it and creates numerous scoring chances with his vision. He also boasts one of the deadliest free-kicks in the business.
Weaknesses: A lack of pace has hindered his impact somewhat at the highest level, but Beckham’s real weakness is a hot-headed temperament which has seen him sent off for petulance in the past.
Career high: Captaining England and sealing their progress to the 2002 World Cup with a last-minute free-kick winner against Greece.
Career low: Being sent off for flicking out at Argentina’s Diego Simeone at the 1998 World Cup and consequently becoming the subject of a nation’s abuse for his behaviour. Missing out on the 2010 World Cup through injury was also a crushing blow.
Style: Hard working, unselfish, inspirational and a real team player.
Quotes: “The spotlight will always be on me, but it’s something I’m learning to live with as the years go by.” David Beckham, April 2009.
Trivia: Beckham holds the English appearance record for an outfield player, beating Bobby Moore’s haul of 108 caps when he played against Slovakia in March 2009.
Squad No: 23
Birth Date: May 2, 1975
Birth Place: Leytonstone, London
Height: 5’11” (1.80m)
Weight: 158 lbs