Beckham to retire from soccer at end of season

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LONDON (AP) - David Beckham is retiring from soccer, ending a career in which he transcended the sport with forays into fashion and a marriage to a pop star that made him a global celebrity.

The 38-year-old midfielder, who recently won a league title in a fourth country with Paris Saint-Germain, said Thursday he will retire after the season.

“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,” the former England captain said in a statement.

Beckham, whose curling free kicks became his signature as a player, has two more matches left at PSG _ against Brest on Saturday and at Lorient on May 26. He has been giving his salary to a children’s charity.

Beckham started his career with Manchester United and also played for Real Madrid and the Los Angeles Galaxy, winning titles with all those clubs. He also spent time with AC Milan.

“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,” Beckham said. “I’m fortunate to have realized those dreams.”

On the international stage, Beckham made 115 appearances for England’s national team _ a record for a player other than a goalkeeper.

“To this day, one of my proudest achievements is captaining my country,” Beckham said. “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. I’m honored to represent England both on and off the pitch.”

Beckham is now living in London with wife Victoria, a former “Spice Girls” singer, and their four children.

“I wouldn’t have achieved what I have done today without my family. I’m grateful for my parents’ sacrifice, which made me realize my dreams,” he said. “I owe everything to Victoria and the kids, who have given me the inspiration and support to play at the highest level for such a long period.”

With United between 1992 and 2003, Beckham won six Premier League titles, the Champions League, two FA Cups and the Intercontinental Cup.

Beckham left United in 2003 shortly after manager Alex Ferguson accidentally struck Beckham’s eye with a football boot. Ferguson announced his retirement from Manchester United last week.

Beckham spent four years in Madrid _ winning the 2007 Spanish title before making the surprise move to Major League Soccer, where he won the title twice.

There were highs and lows in Beckham’s international career. He was blamed for England’s elimination from the 1998 World Cup for his petulant red card against Argentina, but scored the winning goal against the same team at the World Cup four years later.

Beckham responded to jeering at the 2000 European Championship with an obscene hand gesture to England fans, but was lauded by the same supporters a little more than a year later when his last-minute free kick against Greece secured a place at the 2002 World Cup.

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