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By ESPN Staff

Beckham hands in captain's armband

A tearful David Beckham has quit as England captain following their World Cup exit after five-and-a-half years at the helm.

The Real Madrid star announced his decision barely 12 hours after England had been dumped out of the competition on penalties by Portugal.

Beckham revealed it was 'the most difficult decision of my career' and added he had taken it some time ago after consulting with his family.

Beckham was given the armband initially by caretaker boss Peter Taylor for the friendly international with Italy in Turin in November 2000.

Manager Sven-Goran Eriksson decided to keep Beckham in charge when he took over as coach in January 2001 and he has led his country 58 times.

Beckham read a prepared statement before leaving the stage with tears in his eyes without making any further comment.

He said: 'It was the greatest honour of my career when Peter Taylor made me England captain and I fulfilled the England dream. Now I feel is the right time to pass on the armband as we enter a new era.

'I stress that I want to continue to play for England and help the new manager Steve McClaren and the new captain.

'This is the most difficult decision of my career and I came to it some time ago, but I hoped to leave on the back of a successful World Cup. Sadly it was not to be.

'After discussing it with my family, I feel the time is right. I would like to thank all the players and manager for my support as captain, the media and England supporters.

'For me to do this job has been an absolute honour. I am so proud I lived the dream.'

Beckham, by his own standards, has had a mediocre World Cup and he was in tears when a knee injury forced him to be substituted early in the second half against Portugal.

Already there had been signs that Aaron Lennon would be pushing hard to replace him on the right flank.

But he did have the distinction of becoming the first England player to score in three successive World Cups via his free-kick winner against Ecuador.

For many people the defining memory of Beckham will be his last-gasp free-kick goal against Greece in 2001 which ensured England's place in the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan.

Beckham's career with England has been an up and down affair ever since he became public enemy number one with England fans following his sending-off against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup finals in France.

Now attention will turn to his successor with John Terry and Steven Gerrard likely to be front-runners for the role.