David Beckham is delighted he has been able to fulfil his long-held desire to bow out of football at the top. The 38-year-old will hang up his boots at the end of the season after a career that has spanned more than two decades, enjoying league success at each major club he has played for.
The former England captain has been a member of the Paris Saint-Germain team that has just won the Ligue 1 title, rounding off his career with more championship success. It was a wish to finish still among the elite that guided Beckham to today's announcement - although there was still an element of regret.
Speaking to former Manchester United and England team-mate Gary Neville on Sky Sports News, Beckham said: "I think over the years when I have talked to players who have retired, they always say, 'You'll know when you are ready', and I think I'm ready. Obviously it's a difficult decision because I still feel I can play at the top level and still have over the last six months.
"I always secretly said to myself I want to go out at the top and if you'd said to me eight months ago you'll be playing in the French league, winning the league, and finishing like this, I would have said probably, 'Absolutely no chance'. I was given the opportunity and I just feel now is the time."
Pressed by Neville as to how certain he was in his conviction that retirement was the right thing, Beckham said: "I think [I am]. I love the game so much. I just feel...it's the right time. I believe it's the right time but I'll always believe I could do more."
Beckham made his debut for Manchester United in 1992, winning six league titles and the UEFA Champions League before moving to Real Madrid,
Asked when he finally made the decision to retire, Beckham joked: "When [Lionel] Messi was running past me!"
He then added: "I don't know. I just feel I have been so lucky throughout my career, the fact I have played for the clubs I have played for, the players I have played with, the trophies I have won.
"Playing in the MLS last year and winning the championship there, and then coming to PSG and winning the French league here, it's a good way to go out. It's every athlete's dream, it's every footballer's dream to go out on top form or winning a trophy. It doesn't happen that often.
"I've been lucky: when I left
Beckham reveals critics' hurt
Beckham, whose commercial appeal and celebrity lifestyle sometimes drew more headlines than his actions on the pitch, admitted he had been hurt by those who sought to criticise his approach.
"Over the years people have obviously looked at other things that have gone on in my career and sometimes that's overshadowed what I've done on the pitch," he said. "As much as I say that doesn't hurt me, of course it does.
"At the end of the day I'm a footballer who has played for some of the biggest clubs in the world, with some of the best players in the world, and under some of the biggest and best managers, and achieved almost everything in football. It hurts when people - not question it - but think about other things."
England's most-capped outfield player is clear about what he hopes his legacy will be at the end of a career that delivered sustained success at United, before landing domestic titles with Madrid, the Galaxy and, just this past weekend, PSG.
"I hope people will remember me as a hard-working footballer, someone who was passionate about the game and someone that gave everything that they have, because that's how I feel," he said.
"To come to the end of my career now and look back and say I've achieved everything with every club I've ever played for, played for my country 115 times, been runner-up twice in the World Player of the Year to two amazing footballers, I'm very proud of that."