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May 23, 2013

David Beckham bids au revoir to soccer

PARIS -- David Beckham might bid adieu to soccer Sunday from the bench.

The 38-year-old Beckham, who said last week he will retire from the sport after the season, will be with French champion Paris Saint-Germain when the team travels to Lorient for the season finale. But PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said it is unlikely Beckham will play, although it has not been officially decided yet.

"It's been a very special place for me," Beckham said of being on the field. "After 22 years of playing football I'm going to take a few months to enjoy time with my family."

When PSG clinched the league title May 12, Beckham became the first English player to win the championship in four countries after success with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Los Angeles Galaxy. He also played on loan with AC Milan and made 115 appearances for his country, a record in England for someone other than a goalkeeper.

"I just feel that it's the right time. I feel that I've achieved everything that I could in my career. I wanted to go out as a champion," Beckham said. "I've finished my career in a team that has treated me like I've been here for 10 years."

In his four-month stint with the Paris club, Beckham has won over his teammates.

"I think his retirement is a huge loss for football, but I also understand his decision," Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic said. "I didn't know him personally before he signed for Paris, but I have got to know him here. He has been a model of professionalism."

Beckham has clearly made a strong impression on his teammates despite playing only 14 games for PSG.

"David is an incredible person. I can't speak highly enough of him. But first and foremost, he's a great footballer who has had an amazing career," France international Blaise Matuidi said. "I can only wish him every success for the future and I'm so happy to have been able to play and train alongside him. For me, it has been an honor."

Beckham drew a roaring ovation from the 44,983 spectators at Parc des Princes last Saturday when he was replaced in the 81st minute by Ezequiel Lavezzi. PSG beat Brest 3-1 as Beckham set up the second goal in the 32nd minute with a corner kick from the left.

"We spent four great months with him. He brought a lot to the team with his experience," PSG defender Mamadou Sakho said. "He's a great footballer, and off the pitch he's a fantastic person and a genuinely nice guy. I am proud to have played alongside a player like that."

Appointed captain last Saturday for PSG's last home game this season, Beckham was overwhelmed and reduced to tears as he left the field.

After the final whistle, teammates hoisted Beckham off the ground and repeatedly tossed him in the air.

"To end my career in front of a crowd like that, with players like that, it's very special," Beckham said.

The club had a fireworks show and a trophy ceremony after that game. Draped in an English flag, Beckham reveled in the moment as he sprinted onto the stage erected in the middle of the field.

Somehow, Beckham could be back soon in the French capital, but with a different uniform.

PSG President Nasser Al-Khelaifi said last week that he is negotiating with Beckham, hoping the former England captain will work with the French club after retirement, possibly in an ambassador's role.

"He's very interested to continue being involved with the big project of Paris Saint-Germain," Al-Khelaifi said. "He believes in the project, he believes in the club, he loves the club."

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