David Robert Joseph Beckham OBE (UK: /ˈbɛkəm/; born 2 May 1975) is an English former professional footballer, the current president of Inter Miami CF and co-owner of Salford City. He played for Manchester United, Preston North End, Real Madrid, Milan, LA Galaxy, Paris Saint-Germain and the England national team, for which he held the appearance record for an outfield player until 2016. He is the first English player to win league titles in four countries: England, Spain, the United States and France. He retired in May 2013 after a 20-year career, during which he won 19 major trophies.
Beckham's professional club career began with Manchester United, where he made his first-team debut in 1992 at age 17. With United, he won the Premier League title six times, the FA Cup twice, and the UEFA Champions League in 1999. He then played four seasons with Real Madrid, winning the La Liga championship in his final season with the club. In July 2007, Beckham signed a five-year contract with Major League Soccer club LA Galaxy. While a Galaxy player, he spent two loan spells in Italy with Milan in 2009 and 2010. He was the first British footballer to play 100 UEFA Champions League games. In international football, Beckham made his
England debut on 1 September 1996 at the age of 21. He was captain for six years, earning 58 caps during his tenure. He made 115 career appearances in total, appearing at three FIFA World Cup tournaments, in 1998, 2002 and 2006, and two UEFA European Championship tournaments, in 2000 and 2004.
Known for his range of passing, crossing ability and bending free-kicks as a right winger, Beckham has been hailed as one of the greatest and most recognisable midfielders of his generation, as well as one of the best set-piece specialists of all time. He was runner-up in the Ballon d'Or in 1999, twice runner-up for FIFA World Player of the Year and in 2004 was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list of the world's greatest living players. He was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2008. A global ambassador for the sport, Beckham is regarded as a British cultural icon.
Beckham has consistently ranked among the highest earners in football, and in 2013 was listed as the highest-paid player in the world, having earned over $50 million in the previous 12 months. He has been married to Victoria Beckham since 1999 and they have four children. He has been a UNICEF UK ambassador since 2005, and in 2015 he launched 7: The David Beckham UNICEF Fund. In 2014, MLS announced that Beckham and a group of investors would own an Inter Miami CF, which will begin in 2020.
Beckham was born at Whipps Cross University Hospital in Leytonstone, London, England. He is the son of Sandra Georgina (née West; b. 1949), a hairdresser, and David Edward Alan "Ted" Beckham (b. Edmonton, London, 1948), a kitchen fitter, who married in the London Borough of Hackney in 1969. He has an older sister, Lynne Georgina, and a younger sister, Joanne Louise. He regularly played football in Ridgeway Park, Chingford, as a child, and attended Chase Lane Primary School and Chingford County High School. In a 2007 interview, Beckham said that, "At school whenever the teachers asked, 'What do you want to do when you're older?' I'd say, 'I want to be a footballer.' And they'd say, 'No, what do you really want to do, for a job?' But that was the only thing I ever wanted to do." Beckham's maternal grandfather was Jewish, and Beckham has referred to himself as "half Jewish" and wrote in his autobiography "I've probably had more contact with Judaism than with any other religion". In his book Both Feet on the Ground, he stated that growing up he attended church every week with his parents, because that was the only way he could play football for their team.
His parents were fanatical Manchester United supporters who frequently travelled to Old Trafford from London to attend the team's home matches. David inherited his parents' love of Manchester United, and his main sporting passion was football. He attended one of Bobby Charlton's football schools in Manchester and won the chance to take part in a training session with Barcelona, as part of a talent competition. He played for a local youth team called Ridgeway Rovers, which was coached by his father, Stuart Underwood, and Steve Kirby. Beckham was a Manchester United mascot for a match against West Ham United in 1986. Young Beckham had trials with his local club Leyton Orient, Norwich City and attended Tottenham Hotspur's school of excellence. Tottenham Hotspur was the first club he played for. During a two-year period in which Beckham played for Brimsdown Rovers' youth team, he was named Under-15 Player of the Year in 1990.[ He also attended Bradenton Preparatory Academy, but signed schoolboy forms at Manchester United on his 14th birthday, and subsequently signed a Youth Training Scheme contract on 8 July 1991.
Having signed for Manchester United as a trainee on 8 July 1991, Beckham was part of a group of young players, including Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes, who were coached by Eric Harrison, and helped the club win the FA Youth Cup in May 1992. Beckham scored Manchester United's second goal in the 30th minute of their 3–1 first-leg win of the final against Crystal Palace on 14 April 1992. In the second leg on 15 May, Beckham played a full 90-minutes of the fixture which ended 3–2 in favour of Manchester United and 6–3 on aggregate. Beckham's impact led to a first-team debut on 23 September 1992, as a substitute for Andrei Kanchelskis in a League Cup match against Brighton & Hove Albion. Shortly afterwards, Beckham signed as a professional on 23 January 1993.
Manchester United again reached the final of the FA Youth Cup, where they faced Leeds United. The first leg was played on 10 May 1993, where Beckham started in Manchester United's 2–0 home loss but was replaced by substitute Robbie Savage. In the second leg on 13 May 1993, Beckham played the full 90 minutes of Manchester United's 2–1 defeat, which gave Leeds United a 4–1 aggregate score. Beckham also received honours with the club's reserve team when the squad won the league in 1994. In September 1994, Beckham made his first full appearance in the club's first team against Port Vale in a League Cup fixture. On 7 December 1994, Beckham made his UEFA Champions League debut, scoring a goal in a 4–0 victory at home to Galatasaray in the final game of the group stage. Despite the victory, however, they finished third out of four in their group, behind Barcelona.
1994–1995: Loan to Preston North End
Beckham then went to Preston North End on loan for part of the 1994–95 season to get some first team experience. He impressed, scoring two goals in five appearances, notably scoring directly from a corner kick.
Beckham returned to Manchester and made his Premier League debut for Manchester United on 2 April 1995, in a goalless draw against Leeds United. He played four times for United in the league that season, as they finished second behind Blackburn Rovers, missing out on a third successive Premier League title by a single point. He was not in the squad for the FA Cup final with Everton on 20 May, which United lost 1–0, leaving the club without a major trophy for the first time since 1989.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson had a great deal of confidence in the club's young players. Beckham was part of a group of young talents Ferguson brought into United in the 1990s (known as "Fergie's Fledglings"), which included Nicky Butt and Gary and Phil Neville. When experienced players Paul Ince, Mark Hughes, and Andrei Kanchelskis left the club after the end of the 1994–95 season, his decision to let youth team players replace them instead of buying star players from other clubs (United had been linked with moves for players including Darren Anderton, Marc Overmars and Roberto Baggio, but no major signings were made that summer), drew a great deal of criticism. The criticism increased when United started the season with a 3–1 defeat at Aston Villa, with Beckham scoring United's only goal of the game. However, United recovered from this early season defeat and the young players performed well.
Beckham swiftly established himself as United's right-sided midfielder (rather than a right-winger in the style of his predecessor Andrei Kanchelskis) and helped them to win the Premier League title and FA Cup double that season, scoring the winner in the semi-final against Chelsea and also providing the corner from which Eric Cantona scored in the FA Cup Final. Beckham's first title medal had, for a while, looked like it would not be coming that season, as United were still 10 points adrift of leaders Newcastle United at the turn of the new year, but Beckham and his teammates had overhauled the Tynesiders at the top of the league by mid March and they remained top until the end of the season. Despite playing regularly and to a consistently high standard for Manchester United, Beckham did not break into the England squad before Euro 1996.
"It changed my life. The ball seemed to be in the air for hours and it all went quiet. Then the ball went in and it just erupted. I was on cloud nine."
—Beckham on the goal from the half-way line against Wimbledon in August 1996 that made him a household name. It was ranked number 18 on Channel 4’s poll of the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments.
At the beginning of the 1996–97 season, Beckham was given the number 10 shirt that had most recently been worn by Mark Hughes. On 17 August 1996 (the first day of the Premier League season), Beckham became something of a household name when he scored a spectacular goal in a match against Wimbledon. With United leading 2–0, Beckham noticed that Wimbledon's goalkeeper Neil Sullivan was standing a long way out of his goal, and hit a shot from the halfway line – 60 yards out – that floated over the goalkeeper and into the net.
His goal celebration for the 60-yard strike saw him raise his arms and walk away smiling rather than run as he often would. When Beckham scored the goal he was wearing Adidas Predator boots. In a UK poll conducted by Channel 4 in 2002, the British public voted the goal No.18 in the list of the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments. In a 2016 Sky Sports poll it was ranked the best opening day goal in Premier League history. During the 1996–97 season, Beckham became an automatic first-choice player at Manchester United, helping them to retain the Premier League title, and was voted PFA Young Player of the Year by his peers. Prior to the 1997–98 season, Beckham inherited the number 7 shirt, a number previously worn by such United legends as George Best and Eric Cantona. Manchester United started the season well but erratic performances in the second half of the season saw United finish second behind Arsenal.
In the 1998–99 season, he was part of the United team that won the treble of the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League, a unique feat in English football. There had been speculation that the criticism that he had received after being sent off in the World Cup would lead to him leaving England, but Beckham decided to stay at Manchester United.
To ensure they would win the Premier League title, United needed to win their final league match of the season, at home to Tottenham. There were reports suggesting that the opposition would allow themselves to be beaten to prevent their local rivals Arsenal from retaining the title, but Tottenham took an early lead in the match.Beckham scored the equaliser with a curling strike from 25 yards out into the top left corner of the goal and United went on to win the match and the league.
Beckham played in central midfield in United's win over Bayern Munich in the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final, since United's first string centre-midfielders Paul Scholes and Roy Keane were suspended for the match. United were losing the match 1–0 at the end of normal time, but won the trophy by scoring two goals in injury time. Both of the goals came from corners taken by Beckham. Those crucial assists, coupled with great performances over the rest of the season, led to him finishing runner up to Rivaldo for 1999's European Footballer of the Year and FIFA World Player of the Year awards.
1999–2000: Another Championship
Despite Beckham's achievements in the 1998–99 season, he was still unpopular among some opposition fans and journalists, and he was criticised after being sent off for a deliberate foul in Manchester United's World Club Championship match against Necaxa. It was suggested in the press that his wife was a bad influence on him, and that it might be in United's interests to sell him, but his manager publicly backed him and he stayed at the club. During the 1999–2000 season, there was a talk of a transfer to Juventus in Italy, but this never happened. Beckham helped United retain the Premier League title in 1999–2000 by an 18-point margin, after being pushed by Arsenal and Leeds United for much of the season. United won their final 11 league games of the season, with Beckham scoring five goals during this run, with his last goal coming from a swerving shot from the edge of the penalty area in their final home game against Tottenham Hotspur
By the early 2000s, the relationship between Ferguson and Beckham had begun to deteriorate, possibly as a result of Beckham's fame and commitments away from football. In 2000, Beckham was given permission to miss training to look after his son Brooklyn, who had gastroenteritis, but Ferguson was furious when Victoria Beckham was photographed at a London Fashion Week event on the same night, claiming that Beckham would have been able to train if Victoria had looked after Brooklyn that day. He responded by fining Beckham the maximum amount that was permitted (two weeks' wages – then £50,000) and dropping him for a crucial match against United's rivals Leeds United. He later criticised Beckham for this in his autobiography, claiming he had not been "fair to his teammates" Beckham had a good season for his club, though, and helped United to win the Premier League by a record margin.
"He was never a problem until he got married. He used to go into work with the academy coaches at night time, he was a fantastic young lad. Getting married into that entertainment scene was a difficult thing – from that moment, his life was never going to be the same. He is such a big celebrity, football is only a small part."' – Alex Ferguson speaking about Beckham's marriage in 2007.
He was a key player in United's third successive league title in 2000–01, only the fourth time that any club had achieved three league titles in a row. He scored nine goals that season, all in the Premier League.
On 10 April 2002, Beckham was injured during a Champions League match against Deportivo de La Coruña, breaking the second metatarsal bone in his left foot. There was speculation in the British media that the injury might have been caused deliberately, as the player who had injured Beckham was Argentine Aldo Duscher, and England and Argentina were due to meet in that year's World Cup. The injury prevented Beckham from playing for United for the rest of the season and they missed out on the Premier League title to Arsenal (also being knocked out of the Champions League by Bayer Leverkusen on away goals in the semi-finals), but he signed a three-year contract in May, following months of negotiations with the club, mostly concerning extra payments for his image rights. The income from his new contract, and his many endorsement deals, made him the highest-paid player in the world at the time. Despite the injury, 2001–02 was arguably Beckham's best season as a United player; he scored 11 goals in 28 league games, and a total of 16 goals in 42 games in all competitions, the best of his career.
Following an injury early in the 2002–03 season, Beckham was unable to regain his place on the Manchester United team, with Ole Gunnar Solskjær having replaced him on the right side of midfield. His relationship with his manager deteriorated further on 15 February 2003 when, in the changing room following an FA Cup defeat to Arsenal, a furious Alex Ferguson threw or kicked a boot that struck Beckham over the eye, causing a cut that required stitches. The incident led to a great deal of transfer speculation involving Beckham, with bookmakers offering odds on whether he or Ferguson would be first to leave the club. Although the team had started the season badly, their results improved greatly from December onwards and they won the league, with Beckham managing a total of 11 goals in 52 games in all competitions. He was still a first-choice player for England, however, and was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to football on 13 June 2003.
Beckham had made 265 Premier league appearances for United and scored 61 goals. He also made 81 Champions league appearances, scoring 15 goals. Beckham won six Premier League titles, two FA Cups, one European Cup, one Intercontinental Cup and one FA Youth Cup in the space of 12 years. By this stage, he was their joint second longest serving player behind Ryan Giggs (having joined them at the same time as Nicky Butt, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes).
Training and praise from managers
"David Beckham is Britain's finest striker of a football not because of God-given talent but because he practises with a relentless application that the vast majority of less gifted players wouldn't contemplate."
—Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.
Beckham was a product of Sir Alex Ferguson's hard-working approach at Manchester United, and was renowned for his long-range passing, crossing ability, and bending free-kicks as a right winger, which enabled him to excel in this role, despite his lack of significant pace and his preference for using his stronger right foot. Ferguson noted that Beckham "practised with a discipline to achieve an accuracy that other players wouldn't care about."Beckham reportedly spent hours practising his free kicks after training sessions had ended.
"What remains in your memory is his genuine commitment and dedication, his natural humility which he always had, that will stay forever."
—Former Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger.
Beckham maintained his training routine at Real Madrid and even when his relationship with management was strained in early 2007, Real Madrid president Ramón Calderón and manager Fabio Capello praised Beckham for maintaining his professionalism and commitment to the club.Beckham's Real Madrid teammate Roberto Carlos regarded Beckham to be the best free-kick exponent he had ever seen. Two of the best free kick exponents of their generation, Roberto Carlos commented on the dilemma the team faced when they won a free kick on the edge of the penalty area: "I would stand on one side and Beckham on the other but I wanted to see Beckham take the free-kick because it's beautiful how he hits the ball."
In May 2013, asked about how he wanted to be remembered in his retirement, Beckham said, "I just want people to see me as a hardworking footballer, someone that's passionate about the game, someone that – every time I stepped on the pitch – I've given everything that I have, because that's how I feel. That's how I look back on it and hope people will see me."
Beckham was the first England player ever to collect two red cards, and the first England captain to be sent off. Beckham's most notorious red card was during the 1998 World Cup after Argentina's Diego Simeone had fouled him: Beckham, lying face down on the pitch, kicked out at the Argentine midfielder, who fell dramatically.
He amassed 41 yellow cards and four red cards in his time at Real Madrid; all four reds came in La Liga. He received one red card while at Paris Saint-Germain, picked up in injury time in a match against Evian on 28 April 2013. Between 2000 and 2013, Beckham played 420 competitive games for England, Milan, LA Galaxy, Manchester United, Real Madrid and PSG, and received seven red cards, one every 60 matches on average