Big names lead tributes to Beckham

Team-mates, managers, politicians and fans queued up to pay tribute to the retiring David Beckham yesterday, a fitting reaction to the exit of a player who transcended his sport.

Beckham’s on-field achievements are impressive enough, from his status as England’s record outfield cap holder to his achievement of winning league titles in four different countries, but the breadth of personalities who lauded his achievements confirmed his influence had long since spread beyond football.

Prime Minister David Cameron and London 2012 supremo Lord Coe were among those to praise Beckham’s legacy, while tennis star Rafael Nadal devoted part of a post-match press conference to Beckham.

But the warmest offerings came from those who have known him best.

Former Manchester United team-mate Gary Neville hailed his achievements in the game as well as his influence as a trend-setter.

“You look back and think ’wow’, he’s got an incredible array of caps and medals, an incredible longevity,” Neville told Sky Sports News.

“He had incredible stamina and energy. He was a joy to play with.

“He has transported England around the world and that’s something he was aware of and wanted to do.

“Every clothing garment he wore, every hairstyle was followed – not just in football but out of football.”

Sven-Goran Eriksson experienced plenty of ups and downs with Beckham in his role as England manager between 2001 and 2006.

Beckham captained the side throughout Eriksson’s tenure and his free-kick against Greece to book England’s place at the 2002 World Cup will go down as one of his defining moments.

“He’s a fantastic footballer, a fantastic man and probably the world’s biggest sports personality,” Eriksson told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“I don’t think there is any other football player more popular than him. He was a very, very good captain.”

Eriksson’s successor, Steve McClaren, dropped Beckham at the start of his reign but soon recalled him and he was struck by the midfielder’s influence on others.

“He was a winner, he’s won so many things in his career, and that was infectious on his team-mates,” said McClaren.

“The young players followed him in how he played and in his personality, and even off the field the young players of today are following him through his fashion.”

The Los Angeles Galaxy, where Beckham spent six years following his departure from Real Madrid, offered their thanks for his time in California.

Club president Chris Klein said: “David was a tremendous ambassador for our club and our league and it was an incredible honor in having him wear the Galaxy colors. We join the world in celebrating all of his achievements in the sport and look forward to continuing his relationship with our club.”

AC Milan, where he spent two loan spells, also issued a statement that concluded with the message: “Thank you and good luck from all the fans and everyone at the club to David Beckham.”

A spokesman for the Prime Minister highlighted Beckham’s key role in securing the Olympic Games for London, declaring him “a brilliant ambassador for this country”, a theme taken up by Coe.

He worked side by side with Beckham in securing the Games and tipped him to have a similar influence should England ever bid for the World Cup again.

“I would genuinely hope that if England ever really does attempt to put another proper bid together to win a World Cup that he is the first port of call. I can’t think of anybody I would rather entrust to travel around the world on behalf of the English game than David Beckham.”

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