Beckham: Au revoir, tout le monde

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

David Beckham's appearance against Lyon at the weekend may have been a fleeting one, but as Paris Saint-Germain secured the Ligue 1 title with a 1-0 victory at the Stade de Gerland, the iconic midfielder became the first Englishman in history to win the league championship in four countries. It will also be his last.

On Thursday, Beckham confirmed what the football world and PSG have expected for some time. The 38-year-old announced his retirement from the game after a short spell with the capital club to end what has been a stellar career.

- Palmer: A national treasure on and off pitch
- Macintosh: This David was a Goliath
- Payne: Footballer, superstar, United legend
- David Beckham announces retirement
- Lalas on Beckham's decision to retire

The 115-time capped Englishman signed off by saying: "I'm thankful to Paris Saint-Germain for giving me the opportunity to continue, but I feel now is the right time to finish my career, playing at the highest level."

"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 100 times and lined up for some of the biggest clubs in the world, I would have told you it was a fantasy," he added. "I'm fortunate to have realised those dreams."

His final act as a player, although he will surely play against Brest at the Parc des Princes, has been to help his club to its first French top-flight success since 1994, but his PSG legacy will go deeper than that.

Beckham has brought the world's attention to the blossoming project currently under construction in the French capital, and although his contribution has been limited on the pitch, his influence off it has been important. He arrived at the club at a delicate moment when, although winning matches and recently retaking the top spot in Ligue 1 after dislodging Lyon, it was still struggling to pull clear of the chasing pack.

Following the former Manchester United man's arrival, PSG did just that, and Beckham played a part in one of the key victories that set them on their way toward an unassailable lead atop the table: a 2-0 home win over bitter rival Marseille. With the world's eyes watching, his 15-minute cameo contributed toward Les Parisiens' vital second goal, and the veteran was an instant hit with the Parc des Princes crowd.

Since then, Beckham replica shirts have become as commonplace as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Javier Pastore and Thiago Silva ones, but his impact didn't end with the league clash with Marseille. He started the Coupe de France tie against OM just days later and gave perhaps his best performance in a PSG shirt, looking composed in the midfield.

He was also an important influence in the Champions League quarterfinal first leg against Barcelona, replacing the talented but temperamental Marco Verratti and providing a calming influence for some of his less experienced teammates in the face of Spanish giants.

However, it became obvious quite quickly that no matter how enthusiastic he still feels about his football, something that was never up for debate, the sands of time had begun to weigh heavily on his legs.

"Nothing will ever completely replace playing the game I love," Beckham said recently. "I'm fortunate to have been given many opportunities throughout my career, and now I feel it's my time to give back."

Hopefully he will be able to do that and reciprocate the faith that PSG have shown in him by continuing at the club in an off-field role. President Nasser Al-Khelaifi has confirmed that he has already offered Beckham the chance to stay on in a nonplaying capacity, and his presence will no doubt aid the club's continued growth.

He has also helped increase awareness of PSG exponentially on a global scale in just a few short months. While his globe-trotting at times has frustrated some, many are quick to see the bigger picture -- that the club is now one of the most talked about teams in world football. That will be a vital legacy in attracting players in the future.

It would be embellishing a richly decorated story to say that Beckham has been a revelation since joining the club, but it would also be unfair to say that he has done nothing. He departs the game having earned the respect of a stellar squad despite his veteran status, a commendable feat that illustrates the high esteem in which he has been held in Paris.

The club was quick to offer him a one-year extension to his contract, and his teammates urged him to stay on and continue the grand adventure with them. It shows that this PSG side knows that he still has something to offer the club domestically and in Europe. Perhaps that is the best legacy that Beckham the player could leave in France, finishing his career at the highest level but going out with something still to offer.

ESPN Conversations