To coincide with his retirement announcement, David Beckham conducted an interview with his former Manchester United teammate Gary Neville. In the interview, Beckham discussed everything from why he felt it was time to end his long and distinguished career at 38 years old to the hurt caused by his celebrity overshadowing his playing career. And how Lionel Messi is ultimately to blame for him hanging up his boots.
When asked "Why now?" Beckham replied:
"I think over the years, when I've seen players retire — when you ask them about it, they always say 'You know when you're ready.' And I think I know when I'm ready. I think I'm ready. Obviously it's a difficult decision because I still feel I can play at the top level — and still have done for the last six months. But I always secretly said to myself that I want to go out at the top."
Beckham has played these last few months at PSG, donating his wages to charity (though, as of April, that charity still hadn't been chosen yet) after his five years in MLS with the LA Galaxy. Though Beckham has only made 13 appearances with the Paris club, he still goes out as a Ligue 1 champion, adding the French title to those he won with Man United, Real Madrid and LA. And at each stop, he won a domestic title in his final season with the club.
"When did that moment come, when did it hit ya?" Neville then asked.
"Probably when Messi was running past me," Beckham joked, referring to PSG's Champions League quarterfinal elimination to Barcelona. "Playing in the MLS last year and winning the championship there and then coming to PSG and winning the French league here, it's a good way to go out."
Despite all of his achievements on the pitch — all the titles and all the caps for England (a record 115), Beckham is keenly aware that his celebrity off the pitch has cast a shadow and one that he doesn't particularly appreciate.
"I just want people to see me as a hard-working footballer," Beckham said. "Someone's that's passionate about the game and someone that everytime I stepped on the pitch, I gave everything I had."
"I think over the years, my life and my career, people have obviously looked at some other things that have gone on throughout my career and sometimes that's overshadowed what I've done on the pitch and what I've achieved on the pitch. And that's — as much as I say that that doesn't hurt me, of course it does."
"At the end of the day, I'm a footballer that has played for some of the biggest clubs in the world, played with some of the best players in the world, played under some of the biggest and best managers and achieved almost everything in football and I think of course it hurts when people, not question it, but think about other things. And to come to the end of my career now and to look back and to say I've achieved everything with every club that I've played for — played for my country 115 times, been runner-up twice for World Player of the Year to amazing footballers — I'm very proud of that."
Of course, Beckham has no one to blame but himself and the unrivaled genius of his management team for the explosion of Brand Beckham. He married a Spice Girl, endorsed products around the world, posed in his underpants and went through a myriad of highly publicized "look at me" hairstyles. His wife publicly calling him "Golden Balls" probably didn't help, either.
If he just wanted to be known for his football above all else, he could have kept his head (and his hair) down, limited his engagement with the press and just played — like former teammate Paul Scholes, who is also retiring at the end of this season. But, he didn't. And now David Beckham — a name 1,000-feet tall in glittering lights — will remain one of the biggest in the world both to fans of the game and to people who think a penalty shot involves kicking someone in the crotch, long after his playing career ends in a few weeks time. David Beckham outgrew the game. His notoriety became independent of it. For that reason, with his time now freed up from all that training and medal winning, he might now reach even greater heights of world domination.
For more, here's a documentary on Beckham from 2006...