As well as winning over 100 caps for his England and winning a bucket load of trophies in two different continents, it was his ability to maximize the power of the “Beckham brand” that allowed the footballer to transcend his sport and appeal to a worldwide mass audience.
Beckham’s marriage to former Spice Girl and fashion designer, Victoria, probably helped as well.
“Brand Beckham is dead, long live Brand Beckham!” sports business expert Simon Chadwick told CNN. “Beckham’s transition from athlete commodity to sporting statesman and entrepreneur is now complete.”
This year, Beckham became the first ever sportsman from outside of China to be invited to become the ambassador for the sport in the country.
He is estimated to be Britain’s wealthiest sportsman, earning in excess of $46 million a year, according to France Football magazine.
“I wouldn’t have achieved what I have done today without my family,” said Beckham in a statement. “I’m grateful for my parents’ sacrifice, which made me realise my dreams.
“I owe everything to Victoria and the kids, who have given me the inspiration and support to play at the highest level for such a long period.”
Beckham’s decision to retire comes days after the 38-year-old won his latest title with French club Paris Saint-Germain.
“I’m thankful to PSG for giving me the opportunity to continue but I feel now is the right time to finish my career, playing at the highest level,” added Beckham.
The Englishman, who won the Champions League with Manchester United in 1999, also won league titles with Real Madrid, AC Milan and Los Angeles Galaxy before arriving in the French capital earlier this year after signing a short-term contract.
“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 one hundred times and lined up for some of the biggest clubs in the world, I would have told you it was a fantasy,” said Beckham.
“I’m fortunate to have realized those dreams.”
Despite playing for some of the world’s top clubs, Beckham singled out captaining his country as one of his “proudest achievements”.
“I knew every time I wore the Three Lions shirt, I was not only following in a long line of great players, I was also representing every fan that cared passionately about their country,” said Beckham, who won 115 caps for England.
“I’m honoured to represent England both on and off the pitch. I want to thank all my team-mates, the great managers that I had the pleasure of learning from.
“I also want to thank the fans who have all supported me and given me the strength to succeed.”
Beckham had the chance to join PSG in January 2012, but opted to stay in the U.S., ending his American mission with his second MLS Cup title before announcing that he would not fulfill the second year of his contract extension.
“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,” said Beckham.
“I’m fortunate to have been given many opportunities throughout my career and now I feel it’s my time to give back.”
Not that Beckham’s playin career is quite over — yet.
French Champions PSG’s last two games are against Brest at the Parc des Princes in the French capital on Saturday and at Lorient next Sunday.
Former PSG winger David Ginola told CNN that he had had a conversation with Beckham a few weeks ago where the Englishman confided he had begun to question his fitness to play at the highest level.
Meanwhile on Twitter, messages of congratulations poured in from some of his former teammates and clubs and even politicians.
“Best wishes as David #BeckhamRetires His magical free kicks for @MUFC and England will live long in the memory of all football fans,” tweeted British Prime Minister David Cameroon.