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Volume 6 No. 214
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David Beckham To Retire From Football May 26, Remembered As Sporting Icon

DAVID BECKHAM "has retired from football," according to Sarah Ebner of the LONDON TIMES. The 38-year-old, who "transcended the sport," has decided "to call it a day after winning the league title in France with Paris Saint-Germain." He is the first British player to win such a title in four different countries. Beckham: "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. I’m fortunate to have realised those dreams." Beckham "became a global superstar" for his exploits both on and off the field. He won league titles in England, Spain and the U.S. before moving to France, and played for England a record 115 times (LONDON TIMES, 5/16). In London, Ben Rumsby reported Beckham is "without doubt one of the most iconic sportsman in the world, and of his generation." His final game will be at Lorient on May 26. Beckham: "To this day, one of my proudest achievements is captaining my country. 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 care passionately about their country" (TELEGRAPH, 5/16).

BRAND BECKHAM: Beckham’s announcement that he will retire from football is estimated to see his branded earnings flourish. Brand valuation firm Brand Finance estimates that he could become a $500M brand now that he can turn his attention to commercial activities off the field. Beckham generated more than £30M ($46M) of income last year from his roster of commercial deals and endorsements. This income stream has been bolstered by his recent raft of “ambassador” appointments, such as for Chinese Football and Sky Sports. The Chinese ambassadorial role alone is rumored to be worth £50M ($77M) over five years. Brand Finance expects Beckham to follow the path set by former U.S. sporting legends such as MICHAEL JORDAN. Jordan's annual earnings have stayed constant since leaving the court in '97. Brand Finance CEO DAVID HAIGH said, "Commercially, David Beckham is the most successful footballer ever produced in England. He deserves and is capable of becoming a $500 million dollar brand" (Brand Finance).

'LOSS TO THE GAME': In London, Jamie Jackson reported FA Chair DAVID BERNSTEIN called Beckham's retirement a "loss to the game." Former England Manager STEVE MCCLAREN described Beckham "as a great footballer." McClaren: "He is a real loss to the game and I am sure the FA will want to embrace him and to get him closely associated with the organization. I would personally wish him every luck and success -- he will be quite a loss to the game." McClaren: "I've been very fortunate to work with some great players and he was one of them." Beckham's former ManU teammate and the best man at his wedding, GARY NEVILLE, said: "He just feels he's taken it as far as he can. He wanted to come back home, he's been away for 22 years and he's got to the end of the road." England Manager ROY HODGSON said: "I wish him well in the future, whatever he chooses to do and I personally hope that will be in football" (GUARDIAN, 5/16). Also in London, Sarah Ebner reported British PM DAVID CAMERON's spokesperson also added his thoughts. The spokesperson said, "David Beckham has been an outstanding footballer throughout his career. Not only that he has been a brilliant ambassador for this country, not least if we remember all the work he did in helping us win London 2012." Former England captain TERRY BUTCHER said, "Wherever he goes he catches the media attention and the fans’ attention as well... the legs have gone lately but he’s produced some fantastic memories for England" (LONDON TIMES, 5/16).

ONE OF 'THE BEST': In London, Matt Hughes wrote, "Strip away the celebrity circus that surrounded him and Beckham should be regarded as one of the best footballers this island has produced in the Premier League era, and certainly the most significant." In terms of his wider cultural importance, Beckham "bows to no one." He "may have lacked the natural talent" of PAUL SCHOLES, or "the single-minded focus" of RYAN GIGGS, but "through a combination of his hard work, amenable character and presentational skills he transcended his sport in a manner achieved by very few athletes, as well as continuing to enjoy success on the pitch." The pity for Beckham is that "his star shone so brightly off the pitch that it came to quickly overshadow all he ever really wanted to do, which was to play football" (LONDON TIMES, 5/16).

LALAS ON LEGACY: ESPN's ALEXI LALAS said Beckham's legacy is that he "will ultimately be remembered as a winner and a winner that persevered even when times weren't going well." Lalas said, "Off the field, I think he will be remembered for the brand that he created. In 2013, whether it's American soccer players or soccer players around the world, they think about their brand and this is something he cultivated over the years and used to his advantage. And the reality is, was David Beckham the best soccer player to ever play the game? No, but he is iconic and he worked very, very hard on and off the field to do that and that's why he's being celebrated today." SI's GRANT WAHL said the U.S. is "very much a celebrity-oriented country and in a way, the moment David Beckham landed in Los Angeles he became an A-list celebrity." Wahl: "Maybe convincing Americans who didn’t embrace soccer to embrace it was a bit of a harder sell. He did bring new fans to the sport, got really good crowds on the road, moved the needle a little bit on television ratings, but I also think it was a very big challenge that might have been bigger than what Beckham was expecting coming in to convert Americans more to soccer" ("OTL," ESPN, 5/16).