“We may be a small country, but we’re a great one, too,” he says. “The country of William Shakespeare, Churchill, the Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter. David Beckham’s right foot. David Beckham’s left foot, come to that.”
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.
Beckham’s earliest defining moment was an audacious goal for United in 1996, lobbing the ball from the halfway line over the Wimbledon goalkeeper and into the net.
“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,” Beckham said. “I’m fortunate to have realized those dreams.”
From 1992 to 2003, with United, 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 soccer 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 the Galaxy, where he won titles in 2011 and 2012.
There were highs and lows in Beckham’s international career. He was blamed for England’s elimination from the 1998 World Cup for his 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 little more than a year later when his last-minute free kick against Greece secured a place in the 2002 World Cup.
England dropped Beckham in 2006 for younger players after a quarterfinal exit at that year’s World Cup. He returned for the remainder of England’s unsuccessful attempt to qualify for the 2008 European Championship.
His last England appearance came against Belarus in October 2009, and he missed the 2010 World Cup because of an Achilles tendon injury.
Asked what led to Thursday’s decision, Beckham replied with a laugh: “Probably when (Lionel) Messi was running past me in that home game,” referring to a match against Barcelona last month.
Although he was overlooked for a spot on Britain’s team for the London Olympics last year, Beckham played a key role in helping the city win the bid to host the games. He also was involved in England’s unsuccessful bid to host the 2018 World Cup, and the English Football Association wants to draw on his influence and star power in the future.
Beckham lives in London with his wife and their four children. Victoria Beckham said the couple is “excited about the next chapter in our lives.”
Beckham has the right to purchase an expansion team in Major League Soccer, and has said repeatedly that he intends to exercise that option.