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'A British king abdicates' - World's media reacts to Becks

ESPN staff
May 17, 2013

The reaction from media across the globe to news of David Beckham's retirement from football has shown just how far the former England captain's fame stretched beyond his own country.

Beckham will hang up his boots at the end of the season having won league titles in four different countries with Manchester United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy and current club Paris Saint-Germain, but his model looks and celebrity lifestyle resonated just as much, if not more, with an international audience.

USA Today described the 38-year-old as "perhaps the starriest, most-endorsed, most dapper of them all" but added that his presence in the MLS had a major impact on the status of the competition.

"When Beckham moved to LA, the European soccer establishment rolled its eyes, but he made a success of it, silencing the Doubting Thomases," Kim Hjelmgaard wrote.

The New York Times looks back to 2002, when Beckham's metatarsal was the most talked-about subject in England.

"When David Beckham broke a bone in his left foot before the 2002 World Cup, Tony Blair, then the British prime minister, interrupted a cabinet meeting to express his concern about England's suddenly uncertain chances. Tabloid newspapers ran photos of Beckham's injured foot on Page 1 and asked readers to lay their hands on the picture in an attempt at mass civic healing."

Le Parisien, the local paper of Beckham's final club PSG, has the headline "Bye Bye Beckham" with a picture of the midfielder wearing his trademark smile accompanied, helpfully, by him waving. The French capital's paper puns on the word 'Paris', which could also mean 'gamble', inside with the headline "Le dernier Paris gagnant de Beckham" ("The last winning gamble of Beckham"). It seems the club's gamble on signing the then-37-year-old also paid off with the paper citing a study by Kantar Sport, which counted 42,000 media items concerning the Englishman during his five-month stay - "something never seen before", Le Parisien added.

L'Equipe takes the line "Nothing will replace the sport I love" from his Sky Sports interview, as does francefootball.fr, whose initial story was soberly entitled: "Beckham ends his career" with the accompanying picture showing the former England captain waving goodbye.

RMC is rather more measured in its view of Beckham's PSG sojourn. "David Beckham created a real buzz when he signed for PSG. But his performances on the pitch, very discreet, did not spark enthusiasm," it wrote, while another article calls him "the goose that lays golden eggs". The radio station's chief pundit, Luis Fernandez, is more generous, saying he has "always had admiration for the player he is, and the man off the pitch. He's got class". Former France and Lyon goalkeeper Gregory Coupet admitted his surprise at Beckham's announcement, saying: "He could still have been a good guide on the pitch."

RTL took Gary Lineker's description of Beckham as "a marvellous player" to headline a piece containing a host of tributes, and included a video of what it describes as "The 65 free-kicks of David Beckham's career".

Beckham's announcement was slightly overshadowed by Friday's Copa del Rey final in Spain, but all the papers remembered the player who spent four years at Real Madrid alongside fellow galacticos Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo and won just one big trophy - the 2006-07 La Liga title.

Marca's Jaime Rincon waxed poetic over Beckham's passing ability: "An infinity of precise strikes, magic free-kicks and long-range changes of direction, with the particular aesthetic of English football. Behind, a career filled with successes, flashlights and adventures on either side of the pond. The first iconic footballer of the big brands, but also a great player."

Catalan paper Mundo Deportivo glossed over Beckham's turning down of Barcelona for Madrid, and called him "the prince of the spheres", while fitting a dig at Cristiano Ronaldo into its tribute: "'Goldenballs' was an excellent football diplomat, first as a midfielder on both sides of the Atlantic, then as a perfect model of sporting celebrity. But without the vanity of having to remind us he was rich and handsome, like others."

El Mundo took a more critical approach, illustrating its piece with a photo of Beckham and Posh in their smalls and saying: "He who was England captain is more famous recently as a 'sex symbol' or 'trend-setter' than for his work on the pitch. Maybe kids will still want to be like Beckham, but without needing a football."

Beckham also spent two spells on loan at AC Milan while he was an LA Galaxy player, and La Repubblica anticipates that his face will continue to be familiar even after he has stopped playing.   "Football is losing its last superstar. Perhaps the only one, because there are plenty of champions, but only one David Beckham," the paper wrote. "Ciao, Becks. Or rather, see you soon, outside the stadium, where he will continue to be the richest footballer - oops, ex-footballer - in the world."

In Argentina, Beckham is well remembered - unsurprisingly, given the role he played against them for England in two World Cups.

The country's biggest-selling newspaper Clarin called him "one of the most glamorous sports stars on the planet", and reminded its readers: "In Argentina he's remembered most for the match in the 1998 France World Cup, when he was sent off for tripping Diego Simeone... but the 'Spice Boy' [as he is often known in Latin American, with the media apparently unaware of the phrase's association with the Liverpool team in the 1996 FA Cup final] got his revenge four years later, in Japan-Korea 2002, scoring the penalty that gave England a win against Marcelo Bielsa's side in the group stage."

Cronica - best described as the nearest thing Argentina has to a British tabloid newspaper - referred to Beckham with the same 'Spice Boy' nickname, always written in English, informing its readers that "he has one of the most beautiful strikers [of a dead ball] in the world", and listed the three World Cups he'd featured in as well as the clubs he'd played for - though it neglected to mention Los Angeles Galaxy, despite included his loan spells at Milan on their list.

Beckham has always been hugely popular in Asia, but his announcement came as the Far East was going to bed. Much of the continent heard the news on Friday morning.

Beckham was particularly popular in Japan, where he played for England in 2002 at the height of his fame. Sports Nikkan, a leading Japanese newspaper, wrote: "Beckham was handsome and talented. He brought glamour to the football pitch ... he still has many fans in Japan."

In South Korea, Naver, the largest portal site in the country, led with "Beckham calls time on a career that seemed to be made of fantasy", and asked if his retirement decision really was due to Lionel Messi running past him with ease during last month's Champions League tie against Barcelona.

Major Chinese news website Sina summed up the feelings of many of its readers: "World football says goodbye to a true global icon."

The Sydney Morning Herald was not alone in proclaiming: "End it like Beckham. Beckham calls time on glittering career." The Times of India headlined its piece: "Beckham calls time on stellar career."

In Germany, nationwide daily SZ ran a photo gallery on its homepage along with the respectful headline "David Beckham ends his career - A British king abdicates".

Berlin's Tagesspiegel said: "David Beckham shone on the pitch - and even more so beside it... Yes, indeed! David Beckham still played football. Some might not even know it, because they only know the Englishmen as a permanent guest in the fashion press and tabloids. Always up-to-date regarding clothes and hairstyle, and also through the marriage with the former 'Spice Girl' Victoria Adams, he became the biggest global popstar football has ever spawned. After more than 20 years Beckham will now no longer shine, at least on the pitch."

The German press agency DPA ran a story on Beckham, looking back on his 21-year career, writing: "He will not only be remembered for his fine right foot, but also as the husband of Spice Girl's Victoria 'Posh' Adams - now Beckham - and for his appearances with a headband, mohawk haircut, tattoos, a red card in the 1998 World Cup and missed penalties." His biggest success, it wrote, was without a doubt winning the Champions League in 1999, when Manchester United beat Bayern Munich in the final.

SportBild headlined its story "Bye bye Becks!" and also focused on his final game: "The fabled world career of England's football megastar ends on artificial turf in the French provinces."

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