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 would 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 … 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.
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. He was also immortalized in the 2002 movie “Bend it Like Beckham,” about a British teenage girl of south Asian heritage struggling with family pressures and cultural expectations to play the sport she loves.
“Sometimes (off-field fame) has overshadowed what I have … achieved on the pitch,” Beckham said in a television interview conducted by former Manchester United teammate Gary Neville. “And as much as I say that doesn’t hurt me, of course it does.”
From 1992 to 2003, with Man U, Beckham won six Premier League titles, the Champions League, two FA Cups and the Intercontinental Cup.
Beckham then 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.
RULES AGAINST RACISM
Racist and homophobic abuse by players in England will carry a minimum five-match ban starting next season.
The Football Association says for second offenses, there will be a minimum 10-game ban.
English clubs with two or more players penalized within a 12-month period will also face charges.
Landon Donovan was left off the 29-man U.S. roster for a training camp ahead of a trio of World Cup qualifiers next month. … The Brazilian government says some of the security robots bought to improve public safety during the 2014 World Cup will be ready for the quadrennial Confederations Cup in June.