PARIS — After David Beckham’s long and distinguished football career ends on a remote plastic field in northwestern France, his life promises to be far more glamorous once he steps away from the game he loves.
Nearly 20 years after breaking into the Manchester United team, the 38-year-old former England captain won the French league title with Paris Saint-Germain this season.
But after announcing his retirement on Thursday, Beckham’s role in football will take on a new dimension worldwide.
He has an ambassadorial role for Chinese football and for British television channel Sky, as well as an option to buy a franchise in Major League Soccer.
“I would like to wish him all the best for all of his future projects,” PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said. “We are talking about the possibility of continuing our work together.”
But PSG may have to join the queue, as the English Football Association also desperately wants him on board.
This was the same Beckham who, although ruled out of the tournament through injury, insisted on traveling to South Africa to support his teammates at the 2010 World Cup.
Beckham is reportedly being paid an extraordinary 20 million euros ($30.6 million) over five years to work as a Sky Television ambassador — showing how much of a draw he remains.
“He’ll have more time on his hands and more time for commercial partners and the brands he can work or be associated with,” said Steve Martin, the chief executive of M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment. “He has also got so many commercial sponsors that will carry on whether he is playing or not.”
He may develop business interests in the United States, too.
Beckham had five decent years with the Los Angeles Galaxy from 2007-12, winning the championship in his last two seasons. He still has first refusal if he is offered an MSL franchise, although for now it remains unclear where that might take him.
“I have the option of owning a franchise,” Beckham said in December, “and that excites me.”
So that’s Europe and North America. What about Asia?
Two months ago, part of Beckham’s future was already in full swing as he arrived in China. At the time, he said he hadn’t ruled out playing professionally in China one day.
“Who knows? People keep saying that it will be my last club, it will be my last season,” he said. “I continue to play and I love playing, so we’ll see.”
But any matches in China in the future will only be exhibition games — such as the one he is scheduled to play in November.
He still has a pivotal role to play there.
Developing a youth program is considered a priority for the Chinese Super League, with a mere 8,000 players of all ages registered at local associations in a nation of 1.3 billion people. A weak youth system, along with rampant corruption, has been blamed in part for the Chinese national team’s poor international results. The country has only played once at the World Cup, in 2002.
Beckham wants to play a key part in inspiring and training talented young players who might one day represent their country internationally.
He was praised for his contribution to London’s successful bid for the 2012 Olympics and any project which has him as a figurehead is guaranteed to spark worldwide interest.
There is also talk of another role — as part of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar — although that remains uncertain at this stage.
Certainly, there is already a firm link between Beckham and Qatar, with PSG’s owners — QSI — finally getting him to join when he went to PSG on the last day of this season’s transfer window.
“It is an immense honor to have convinced him to join,” Al-Khelaifi said.
PSG missed out on Beckham the previous year, and his signing raised a few eyebrows in France.
“I was proud France and PSG could attract a player like David Beckham,” Lyon striker Bafetimbi Gomis said. “Friends of mine in the PSG dressing room told me what a great professional he is.”
With almost perfect timing, he made his league debut as a substitute against rival Marseille on Feb. 24 and showed his legs could still last the pace by playing 86 minutes against the same team in the French Cup three days later.
Beckham was booked in that game — a sign of things to come. He lost his temper badly at Saint-Etienne a few weeks later, grabbing and pushing Brazilian striker Brandao after he’d gone in late on PSG teammate Thiago Silva.
Although Beckham has played reasonably well at times during his 13 games so far, most were as a substitute, and he has actually stood out more for his combative streak than for his passing and crossing.
Beckham has set up only one goal, a delightful chipped pass from the right against Rennes that appeared to be going in anyway before top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic helped himself to another goal.
That performance came in between the home and return leg of the Champions League quarterfinals against Barcelona.
PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti started Beckham in the home leg — against one of the best midfields of all time — and Beckham was criticized by French media, with sports daily L’Equipe marking him 3 out of 10. It was a harsh criticism, as although Beckham hardly stood out, his neat and tidy passing from a deep-lying position was what Ancelotti wanted.
Beckham was booked in the second leg against Barcelona and then against Evian on April 28, he was red-carded shortly after coming on as he went into a tackle with a dangerously raised foot. There was no contact, but it was reckless.
Against Brest at Parc des Princes on Saturday, Beckham will have a chance to say farewell to PSG’s fans, who only knew him for a short time, before pulling on a jersey for the final time in Lorient on May 26.
Then it will be out of the shorts and into the suit as a new chapter in Beckham’s life begins.
“He is on a totally different planet to other players in terms commercial value and long-term ambassadorial role,” Martin said. “His appeal is so enduring and that won’t change (for another 20 years).”