On Saturday, 18th May 2013, the curtain finally came down on the career of one of the most iconic footballers of the modern era: David Beckham.
Perhaps best known for his exploits off the field in fashion and, now, ownership of MLS side Inter Miami, it’s easy to forget Beckham racked up 10 league titles and more with some of the world’s biggest clubs, including Manchester United, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy.
David Beckham: Five key career stats…
- Club appearances: 719
- Club goals: 129
- International caps: 115, Wayne Rooney (120) is the only outfield English player with more.
- Bend it like Beckham: No player has scored more goals from direct free-kicks than Beckham (18).
- Did you know? Beckham is the only Englishman to win league titles in four different countries (England, Spain, USA and France).
David Beckham was the first player to provide 10+ assists in four consecutive seasons:
❍ 1997/98: 13 assists
❍ 1998/99: 11 assists
❍ 1999/00: 15 assists
❍ 2000/01: 12 assists
Christian Eriksen is the only other player to do it since. pic.twitter.com/y9afB7kyF7
— Squawka (@Squawka) May 2, 2020
The last of those titles came in France with Paris Saint-Germain, for whom Beckham made 10 Ligue 1 appearances in 2012/13, helping the club become French champions for the first time since 1994.
In many ways, given Beckham was deep into his 30s and only joined on a five-month deal, his signing was more of a PR stunt than a footballing decision. Often he would only come off the bench for the final minutes of matches in true exhibition fashion.
“It is very good news which only adds to the image of Paris in the world. He is a great sporting personality with an international audience,” then-mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoe said.
“It’s great for this city which is already the top tourist destination in the world and where 10 percent of jobs are in the tourist industry.”
And the midfielder certainly drew his fair share of criticism during his time in Paris. Not least for his role in a 2-2 Champions League draw with Barcelona.
However, Beckham certainly left his mark on Paris. The England international donated his entire salary during his time at PSG to a local children’s charity and many fans were keen to see him stay on at the club for one more year.
As time has gone on, that gesture has unfortunately been left with a black mark against it, with Beckham being denied the knighthood so many felt he deserved, while hacked emails years later revealed just how hard he was working to earn that title, blasting the Honours Committee “unappreciative c*nts”.
But it should be remembered that, regardless of motive, Beckham nonetheless helped deprived children in Paris with huge sums of money and that is why he is still loved within the city to this day.
With 2012/13 nearing its conclusion, Beckham announced he would finally bring the curtain down on his career.
“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,” he said in a statement.
The Ligue 1 title was already wrapped up, with a final-day trip to Lorient looming. But manager Carlo Ancelotti thought their plastic pitch would be “unkind” to the then-38-year-old’s ageing legs, and so it was a 3-1 home win over Brest in the penultimate game of the season that would prove to be Beckham’s swansong.
“PSG and the world are losing a fantastic player and a great guy,” Ancelotti told reporters ahead of the game. “Now he and the club will arrive at some decisions about his future.
“In any case, he is and has always been so humble. That’s his great quality, along with his passing game, of course.”
Wearing the captain’s armband, Beckham delivered a typically classy performance, providing an assist for Blaise Matuidi with a trademark corner. He also turned down the chance to score one last free-kick, instead allowing Zlatan Ibrahimovic to fire the ball home for before immediately running to the giant Swede to celebrate. Beckham had clearly come a long way from that petulant young player who kicked out at Diego Simeone at the 1998 World Cup all those years ago.
He was withdrawn in the 82nd minute to be replaced by Ezequiel Lavezzi, exiting the pitch for the final time with tears streaming down his face, to the applause of fans, teammates and coaching staff alike, while “merci, David” was shouted from the stands.
“To end my career in front of a crowd like that, with players like that, it’s very special,” said Beckham after the final whistle, adding that he was already feeling emotional before his substitution.
“It started about 20 minutes before that, to be honest. I started thinking and then, you know, I couldn’t concentrate by then, and it was difficult,” he added. “You know, you try to hold the emotion back because it is what it is, but it’s difficult.”
Given his exploits for Man United and Real Madrid and his post-career pursuits off the field, Beckham’s last game as a professional footballer often gets overlooked. An assist from a cross, raw emotion and displays of mass adoration. He even found time for a fashion statement (in the fashion capital of the world, no less) by designing and wearing a pair of Union Jack boots: the final 82 minutes of David Beckham’s career could not have been more on brand.
What happened next? The PSG line-up from David Beckham’s final match…
- Salvatore Sirigu — Career path: Sevilla (loan), Osasuna (loan), Torino, Genoa, Napoli, Fiorentina, Nice (current). Was tipped for greatness with the Italian national team but never fulfilled his potential, leaving PSG permanently in 2017.
- Christophe Jallet — Career path: Lyon, Nice, Amiens, retired (2020). Was named in the 2012/13 Ligue 1 Team of the Year. Left PSG in 2014 and has since retired after turning out for Amiens.
- Siaka Tiene — Career path: Montpellier, retired (2015). Left PSG at the same time as Beckham but saw out his career with a two-year spell at Montpellier.
- Zoumana Camara — Career path: Retired (2015). Won two more Ligue 1 titles with PSG before finally retiring in 2015 aged 36.
- Mamadou Sakho — Career path: Liverpool, Crystal Palace, Montpellier (current). Left for Liverpool at the end of the 2012/13 season but never quite nailed down his spot. Left the Premier League after enjoying a spell with Crystal Palace and has 29 caps for France.
- Clément Chantôme — Career path: Toulouse (loan), Bordeaux, Rennes, Lens (loan), Red Star, Poissy, C’Chartres (current). Fell down the pecking order at PSG and has been traversing French football ever since. Now plays for C’Chartres in the Régional 1 Center-Val de Loire.
- Blaise Matuidi — Career path: Juventus, Inter Miami, retired (2022). Carried on at PSG years after scoring the final goal assisted by Beckham. Continued to win titles at Juve and is a World Cup winner with France.
- Javier Pastore — Career path: Roma, Elche, Qatar SC (current). Looked set to become one of the best players in the world but never lived up to the billing. Left for Roma in 2018 but has struggled to hold down a regular place.
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic — Career path: Manchester United, LA Galaxy, AC Milan, retired (2023). Remained one of the most prominent players in the world before calling time on his illustrious career in 2023.
- Kevin Gameiro — Career path: Sevilla, Atletico Madrid, Valencia, Strasbourg (current). Left PSG at the end of the 2012/13 season but despite not being the most fashionable French forward, has continued to deliver goals in Spain for Sevilla, Atletico Madrid and Valencia.