International soccer star David Beckham has announced that following… (Franck Fife / Getty Images )
David Beckham is retiring. ... Again.
Only this time, after a couple of false starts with the Galaxy over the last three years, the former captain of England's national team says he's really, truly hanging up his boots for good, drawing to a close a playing career both eventful and spectacular.
"Now is the right time to finish," Beckham said Thursday. "Nothing will ever completely replace playing the game I love. However, I feel like I'm starting a new adventure, and I'm genuinely excited about what lies ahead."
That new adventure could include an ownership stake in a Major League Soccer club, an option that was included in his first contract with the Galaxy and one Beckham promised to exercise when he retired.
Beckham, who turned 38 two weeks ago, has long said he wanted to go out on top as a player and he will: In his final game May 26 at Lorient, France, he'll be playing for Paris St.-Germain, champion of France's Ligue 1. In a 20-year career Beckham also won domestic league titles in England with Manchester United, in Spain with Real Madrid and in the U.S., where he helped the Galaxy win consecutive MLS crowns, making him the only English player to win titles in four countries.
He also won two FA Cups and the UEFA Champions League with United and earned 115 caps for the national team, a record for a field player. But as good as he was as a player, he was an even better global ambassador and cultural phenomenon, one who cemented his legacy when he jumped from Real Madrid to MLS in 2007, giving the North American league the international visibility and respect it had lacked.
"There is a reason that when people think about Major League Soccer, the first thing they think about is the L.A. Galaxy. That's because of David Beckham," said ESPN soccer commentator Alexi Lalas, who was president and general manager of the Galaxy when the team acquired Beckham. "When we look back many years from now, the arrival of David Beckham is going to be looked at as a pivotal moment in the development and evolution of the game."
Since Beckham's signing, the league has expanded from 12 to 19 teams, added 10 soccer-specific stadiums, more than doubled its overall attendance and increased worldwide merchandise sales by more than 230%.
Beckham also made it safe for other top-name European players such as France's Thierry Henry and Irish national team captain Robbie Keane to come to the U.S. to play.
"If you think of where he was at that time in his career -- at Real Madrid, just won a title -- and he decides to leave one of the top three or four biggest clubs in the world to come over to Major League Soccer and to help put it on the map, that's really what he did," said former U.S. national team goalkeeper Kasey Keller, "He was a global icon at that stage and people heard of Major League Soccer because of David Beckham."