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Home » Sport » Football

David Beckham: remember the footballer

David Beckham is set to retire from football, having announced that this season at Paris St-Germain will be his last.

During his distinguished career, the 38-year old went on to become arguably the world's most famous player and undoubtedly its biggest celebrity; along the way, though, the lifestyle pages made it easy to forget what an outstanding footballer he was.

At Manchester United, he was a part of one of the best midfields that Europe has produced, lining up in the famous Treble season of 1998-99 alongside Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs.  

A cross-country champion in his youth, he was overwhelmingly celebrated for his crossing ability, which helped him to provide over twenty assists that year.  

He was one of the few players to whom conceding a free-kick was almost as dangerous as a penalty

He could clip in a centre on the run or on the half-volley with equal ease, a skill with about the same difficulty as hitting a cover drive with a pitching-wedge.  However, Beckham was also the most gifted passer over long distances that his country had seen since Glenn Hoddle.  

The enduring memory of watching him on TV was laughing as the cameraman desperately panned across to capture his prodigious cross-field balls, lest they soar off screen.  

From open play, his shooting was so accurate that he didn't need much power to score from thirty yards or more; and he was one of the few players in the modern era to whom conceding a free-kick was almost as dangerous as conceding a penalty.  

Of course, his set-pieces were so celebrated that they were made the subject of a film, Bend It Like Beckham. And, of course, this celebrity would become detrimental to the England midfielder's playing career.  

Ferguson considered it to be too much of a circus, and sold him for less than £18 million to Real Madrid; but only after he had helped to win six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and a UEFA Champions League for his boyhood club.  

His film-star looks, which he and those around him carefully used as the platform for film-star status, gave him the Robert Redford problem: that he was on so many billboards that people often forgot what talent lay beneath the glitz.

Beckham would go on to play 115 times for his country, and captain them at major international tournaments, scoring for them at vital times.  

Sitting on his mantelpiece at home, he may have the greatest photo album that world football has ever seen

There was the last-minute free-kick to secure World Cup qualification against Greece, and the redemptive penalty against Argentina in World Cup 2002 following his red card against them in 1998.  

He would also go on to play a starring role in Real Madrid's La Liga victory in 2006-07, before departing to the US, somewhat prematurely for a player of his calibre, to play for the LA Galaxy.  

There he largely faded from mainstream view, before returning to AC Milan and then PSG for brief cameos.

He's had quite the life in football, and if there was a sense that he sacrificed some of his edge for fame, then we should not neglect that era when his edge was at its sharpest.  

Sitting on his mantelpiece at home, he may have the greatest photo album that world football has ever seen: but he also has a trophy cabinet the size of a walk-in wardrobe. When all's said and done, we should remember the latter.

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