May 16, 2013, 12:39 PM EDT
After announcing his retirement this afternoon, the soccer world is reflecting on David Beckham’s decision to stop playing the beautiful game.
So who better to hear from…than the man himself.
In an exclusive interview with British broadcasters, Beckham sat down in his Paris hotel room this afternoon to chat with former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville — who also happens to be one of his closest friends — to discuss his entire career.
First up, why now?
“I think over the years when I’ve seen players retire when you ask them about it, they say ‘you will know when you’re ready.’ And I think I am ready,” Beckham said. “Obviously it is a difficult decisions. Because I still feel that I can play at the top level, and I still have done for the last six months. But I always secretly said to myself that I want to go out at the top. If you had said to me eight months ago that I would be playing in the French League and winning the French League I would have probably said absolutely no chance. But I was given the opportunity to come to PSG. And I just feel now is the time.”
Beckham repeatedly said “I think this is the right time,” in the interview with Sky Sports, so Neville pushed him and asked “Do you think or do you know this is the right time to retire?”
“I think. I love the game so much. I just feel that. I don’t know. It is the right time. I believe it is the right time. But I always feel like I can do more, that’s the problem,” Beckham laughed.
Then Beckham revealed the moment when he realized he should retire.
“I think it came when I saw Messi running past me when we played Barcelona! I don’t know. I have been so lucky throughout my career. The fact that I have played for the clubs that I have played for, with the players I have played with, won the trophies that I’ve won. Playing in MLS last year winning the championship their and then coming to PSG and winning the French league here, I think it is a good way to go out.”
Of course Beckham has always gone out on top, wherever he has been. He has won trophies in his final games for United, Real Madrid, LA and now PSG. So, yeah, might as well go out on top, Becks.
“It is every athlete’s dream, every footballers dream to go out on the top form or winning a trophy,” Beckham said. “It doesn’t happen that often. I’ve been lucky. It’s written. It’s simple, your leaving as a champion. I think that’s why I am going out at the right time.”
Beckham then touched on his legacy, what he wanted to be remembered as and he spoke of his annoyance that sometimes people forgot what he does on the pitch and instead focus on his off-field activities.
“I just want people to see me as a hard-working footballer. As someone that is passionate about the game and someone that every time I’ve stepped on the pitch I’ve given everything I have. That’s how I look back on it and hope people will see me,” Beckham said. “Over the years of my life and my career, people have looked at certain other things that have gone on throughout my career and I think sometimes that has overshadowed what I have done on the pitch or achieved on the pitch. As much as I say that doesn’t hurt me, of course it does. At the end of the day I am a footballer who has achieved almost everything in football, of course it hurts when people, not question you, but think about other things.”
Finally the 38-year-old midfielder, who has become the most recognizable soccer star on the planet during his sparkling career, summed up the end of his playing days with a tear in his eye and a wry smile.
“To come to the end of my career now and look back and say I’ve achieved everything with every club that I’ve played for. Played for my country 100 times, been runner-up twice for world player of the year to two amazing footballers, I am very proud of that.”
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