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May 16, 2013

Beckham announces retirement

Former England captain David Beckham has announced that he will end his playing career at the end of the season.

• Beckham gallery Photo Gallery
• David Beckham profile
• PSG hope Beckham stays
• Johnson: Au revoir, Beckham
• Payne: Man United legend

The 38-year-old last week won the Ligue 1 title with current club Paris Saint-Germain to add to the Premier League, La Liga and MLS winners' medals he claimed with Manchester United, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy. As such, he became the first Englishman to win league championships in four different countries.

"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,'" Beckham said in a statement released on Thursday.

"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 one hundred 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 won 115 caps for England, surpassing World Cup-winning skipper Bobby Moore and setting a new record for an outfield player. He captained his country at two World Cups and a European Championship while wearing the armband between 2000 and 2006.

"To this day, one of my proudest achievements is captaining my country," Beckham said. "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 cared passionately about their country.

"I'm honoured to represent England both on and off the pitch... I want to thank all my team-mates, the great managers that I had the pleasure of learning from. I also want to thank the fans who have all supported me and given me the strength to succeed."

Beckham made his debut for United, the team he supported as a child, in 1992 after graduating out of the club's academy and winning the FA Youth Cup as part of a much-vaunted side that also included future team-mates Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville and Nicky Butt.

During his 11 years as a professional at Old Trafford, Beckham won six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the Champions League in 1999, putting in the corners which led to both of his team's late goals in the dramatic 2-1 final victory over Bayern Munich.

By this time, Beckham was already an established England international and a one of the world's most famous sportspeople. That fame became notoriety at the 1998 World Cup when he was sent off in the second round clash against Argentina for tripping midfielder Diego Simeone. England lost the match on a penalty shootout, and Beckham returned to a hostile welcome from many fans in his home country.

Beckham soon won the nation over once more, however, and in 2000 he was appointed permanent England captain by new manager Sven-Goran Eriksson. He helped his country reach the 2002 World Cup with a memorable performance in the final qualifier against Greece, when his stunning late free-kick sealed a 2-0 win over Greece which sent England to the finals in Japan and South Korea. Beckham scored a penalty against Argentina to lay memories of four years earlier to rest, but England exited in the last eight after defeat to Brazil.

After falling out with United manager Sir Alex Ferguson he was sold to Real Madrid in 2003, where he played alongside legendary players such as Zinedine Zidane, Raul and Luis Figo. Beckham had to wait until the last of his four years at the Bernabeu before winning the Primera Division title in 2007, a year after he had stood down as England captain following yet another exit at the quarter-final stages of a major tournament, this time to Portugal at the 2006 World Cup.

He then shocked the world by announcing he would be moving to the United States to join MLS franchise Los Angeles Galaxy.

The midfielder used his worldwide fame to boost interest in football in the US, and helped the Galaxy claim the MLS Cup in 2011 and retain the title a year later.

He spent two short loan stints at AC Milan during his five years in the US before, following a brief spell out of the game, he joined Paris Saint-Germain on a short-term deal in January.

Beckham's final match as a professional is set to be on May 26 at the unlikely setting of Lorient's Stade du Moustoir, where PSG play their final game of the Ligue 1 season.

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