The recently-ended career of David Beckham was stacked with memorable moments. FIFA.com outlines seven of them, linking with the iconic shirt number he wore with distinction for Manchester United and England.
Beckham began the 1996/97 season proudly wearing the No10 jersey he had inherited from Mark Hughes and unwittingly wearing the boots of Charlie Miller, which had been given to him by mistake. It didn’t hinder him. When the 21-year-old collected possession inside his own half in injury time, he noticed Dons goalkeeper Neil Sullivan eight yards off his line. Undeterred by playing in a team of superstars, Beckham had the audacity to attempt a shot. He also had the outrageous ability to score it, with his powerful, dipping drive looping over Sullivan and sealing a 3-0 away win. Beckham became an instant sensation. His goal was later voted 18th on Channel 4’s list of the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments, above Boris Becker conquering Wimbledon as a 17-year-old and Mark Spitz winning golds and setting new world records in all seven of the swimming events he competed in at the 1972 Olympics.
United needed to win their final game to lift the Premier League title, but they fell behind at home to Tottenham Hotspur. Beckham equaliser with a ferocious, impeccably-struck drive before Andy Cole ensured United won 2-1 and pipped Arsenal to glory by a point. Six days later Beckham helped Sir Alex Ferguson’s men beat Newcastle United 2-0 in the FA Cup final, and before the month was up they had staged an extraordinary comeback to sink Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions Legue decided. Trailing in injury time, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored – both following Beckham corners – to snatch the Manchester giants a 2-1 win and the treble.
England required a draw at home to Greece to reach the FIFA World Cup™. Anything less and they would have the agony of a play-off for a place at Korea/Japan 2002. Deep into injury time, Sven-Goran Eriksson’s team trailed 2-1 and when they were awarded a free-kick, 30 yards out, it was their last chance – albeit a remote one. However, Beckham combined pace and curl to send the ball into the top corner, the crowd at Old Trafford into ecstasy and England to the Far East.
When an out-of-favour Beckham announced that January that he would be joining Los Angeles Galaxy at the end of the season, Real Madrid coach Fabio Capello declared that the England midfielder had played his last game for the club. Rather than go through the motions, Beckham greatly impressed Capello with his attitude and performances in training, and was duly rewarded with a return to the starting XI against Real Sociedad in February. The Leytonstone native scored a trademark free-kick in that 2-1 victory and went on to play a pivotal role in Los Merengues pipping Barcelona to La Liga gold – Beckham’s first in his four years at the club – due to a superior head-to-head record. So impressive was Beckham in that charge to the title that Real tried desperately to retain his services, though Beckham kept his word and moved to California.
Beckham had capped what was an excellent, assist-awash 2011 season by having in a hand in the Landon Donovan goal which clinched the Galaxy MLS Cup glory, and the free-kick specialist was again instrumental in Bruce Arena’s side’s run to the fixture the following year. Beckham had announced before the decider that it would be his last match for the LA outfit, and his extrasensory vision and immaculate execution of pass were showcased magnificently as the Galaxy came from behind to beat Houston Dynamo 3-1. Beckham was substituted in the 89th minute to memorable standing ovation that left him visibly emotional.
Countless clubs were waving extortionate offers in the free agent’s direction, and it came as no surprise that Beckham chose to join one of the richest on the planet in Paris-Saint Germain. What did shock the world – and delight in equal measure – was that the 37-year-old was donating his entire salary to a local children’s charity. An amazing gesture from an amazing man.
Beckham came off the bench as Paris Saint-Germain edged Lyon to seize the Ligue 1 crown. It was the tenth league title of his career and made him the first Englishman in history to conquer the top tier in four different countries.