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David Beckham relishes his dream exit

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David Beckham

David Beckham

CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 01:  David Beckham #23 of Los Angeles Galaxy celebrates after teammate Omar Gonzalez #4 scores a second half goal against the Houston Dynamo in the 2012 MLS Cup at The Home Depot Center on December 1, 2012 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 01: David Beckham #23 of Los Angeles Galaxy celebrates after teammate Omar Gonzalez #4 scores a second half goal against the Houston Dynamo in the 2012 MLS Cup at The Home Depot Center on December 1, 2012 in Carson, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Kevork Djansezian

CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 01:  David Beckham #23 of Los Angeles Galaxy celebrates the 3-1 victory against the Houston Dynamo to win the 2012 MLS Cup at The Home Depot Center on December 1, 2012 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 01: David Beckham #23 of Los Angeles Galaxy celebrates the 3-1 victory against the Houston Dynamo to win the 2012 MLS Cup at The Home Depot Center on December 1, 2012 in Carson, California. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

Victor Decolongon

David Beckham in action during the MLS Cup Final

David Beckham in action during the MLS Cup Final

David Beckham: Real Madrid to LA Galaxy, 2007 There's no doubt Beckham has cost LA Galaxy a lot of money, but he did arrive from Real Madrid for nothing. For the MLS side, Beckham has been a great addition, particularly in terms of bringing in the crowds and shifting shirts. But for the player himself, a move to America was a mistake. Beckham clearly still had a few good years in him but by going across the pond his England career drew to a close and the opportunity to play at the highest level while he could (a couple of loans to AC Milan aside) was missed.

David Beckham: Real Madrid to LA Galaxy, 2007 There's no doubt Beckham has cost LA Galaxy a lot of money, but he did arrive from Real Madrid for nothing. For the MLS side, Beckham has been a great addition, particularly in terms of bringing in the crowds and shifting shirts. But for the player himself, a move to America was a mistake. Beckham clearly still had a few good years in him but by going across the pond his England career drew to a close and the opportunity to play at the highest level while he could (a couple of loans to AC Milan aside) was missed.

CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 01:  David Beckham #23 of Los Angeles Galaxy has a free kick in the second half while taking on the Houston Dynamo in the 2012 MLS Cup at The Home Depot Center on December 1, 2012 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 01: David Beckham #23 of Los Angeles Galaxy has a free kick in the second half while taking on the Houston Dynamo in the 2012 MLS Cup at The Home Depot Center on December 1, 2012 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Harry How

David Beckham

David Beckham

Stephen Dunn

Paris Saint Germain's coach Carlo Ancelotti celebrates the title with player David Beckham, left, after winning their French League One soccer match against Lyon, in Lyon, central France, Sunday, May 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Paris Saint Germain's coach Carlo Ancelotti celebrates the title with player David Beckham, left, after winning their French League One soccer match against Lyon, in Lyon, central France, Sunday, May 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

AP

PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 02:  David Beckham of Paris Saint-Germain is challenged by Andres Iniesta of Barcelona during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final match between Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona FCB at Parc des Princes on April 2, 2013 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 02: David Beckham of Paris Saint-Germain is challenged by Andres Iniesta of Barcelona during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final match between Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona FCB at Parc des Princes on April 2, 2013 in Paris, France. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Getty Images

PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 02:  David Beckham of Paris Saint-Germain looks on with Lionel Messi of Barcelona during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final match between Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona FCB at Parc des Princes on April 2, 2013 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 02: David Beckham of Paris Saint-Germain looks on with Lionel Messi of Barcelona during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final match between Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona FCB at Parc des Princes on April 2, 2013 in Paris, France. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Getty Images

David Beckham

David Beckham

David Beckham

David Beckham

Bongarts/Getty Images

David Beckham

David Beckham

David Beckham

David Beckham is delighted he has been able to fulfil his long-held desire to bow out of football at the top.

The 38-year-old will hang up his boots at the end of the season after a career that has spanned more than two decades, enjoying league success at each major club he has played for.

The former England captain has been a member of the Paris St Germain team that has just won the Ligue 1 title, rounding off his career with more championship success.

It was a wish to finish still among the elite that guided Beckham to yesterday's announcement – although there was still an element of regret.

Beckham said: "I think over the years when I have talked to players who have retired they always say 'You'll know when you are ready', and 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 over the last six months.

"I always secretly said to myself I want to go out at the top and if you'd said to me eight months ago you'll be playing in the French league, winning the league, and finishing like this I would have said probably 'Absolutely no chance'.

"I was given the opportunity and I just feel now is the time."

Pressed by Gary Neville in an interview as to how certain he was in his conviction that retirement was the right thing, Beckham said: "I think. I love the game so much.

"I just feel...it's the right time – I believe it's the right time but I'll always believe I could do more."

Beckham made his debut for Manchester United in 1992, winning six league titles and the Champions League before moving to Real Madrid, Los Angeles Galaxy and PSG, plus loan spells at AC Milan.

Asked when he finally made the decision to retire, Beckham joked: "When (Barcelona forward Lionel) Messi was running past me!"

He then added: "I don't know. I just feel I have been so lucky throughout my career, the fact I have played for the clubs I have played for, the players I have played with, the trophies I have won.

"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.

"It's every athlete's dream, it's every footballer's dream to go out on top form or winning a trophy. It doesn't happen that often.

"I've been lucky: when I left United we won the league, when I left Madrid we won the league, leaving Galaxy after winning the championship there and then coming here and winning the league.

"It's nice to go out like that, it's written, it's simple."

Beckham, whose commercial appeal and celebrity lifestyle sometimes drew more headlines than his actions on the pitch, admitted he had been hurt by those who sought to criticise his approach.

"Over the years people have obviously looked at other things that have gone on in my career and sometimes that's overshadowed what I've done on the pitch," he said.

"As much as I say that doesn't hurt me, of course it does.

"At the end of the day I'm a footballer who has played for some of the biggest clubs in the world, with some of the best players in the world, and under some of the biggest and best managers, and achieved almost everything in football.

"It hurts when people – not question it – but think about other things."

England's most-capped outfield player is clear about what he hopes his legacy will be at the end of his career.

"I hope people will remember me as a hard-working footballer, someone who was passionate about the game and someone that gave everything that they have, because that's how I feel," he said.

"To come to the end of my career now and look back and say I've achieved everything with every club I've ever played for, played for my country 115 times, been runner-up twice in the World Player of the Year to two amazing footballers, I'm very proud of that."

Meanwhile, one of Beckham's best friends in football, Gary Neville, believes the retiring superstar succeeded in both transforming football and transcending it.

Beckham confirmed he would call time on his playing career after one final outing for Paris St Germain.

Neville, a team-mate and friend at United, travelled to Paris to speak to Beckham about his retirement and also led the tributes.

He lauded Beckham's work ethic as a player and marvelled at A-list status off the pitch.

"He's won another championship at PSG, that's four in four countries now, and he just wants to come home," Neville told Sky Sports News.

"He just feel it's the right time. He just feels he's taken it as far as he can.

"You look back and think 'wow', he's got an incredible array of caps and medals, an incredible longevity.

"He played in the greatest midfield I've ever played with: David, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane and Paul Scholes. He was a joy to play with.

"He has transported England around the world and that's something he was aware of and wanted to do. Every clothing garment he wore, every hairstyle was followed – not just in football but out of football."

Sven-Goran Eriksson experienced plenty of ups and downs with Beckham in his role as England manager between 2001 and 2006.

Beckham captained the side throughout Eriksson's tenure and his free-kick against Greece to book England's place at the 2002 World Cup will go down as one of his defining moments.

"He's a fantastic footballer, a fantastic man and probably the world's biggest sports personality," Eriksson told BBC Radio Five Live.

"I don't think there is any other football player more popular than him. He was a very, very good captain."

Belfast Telegraph