David Beckham: 'the world's biggest sports personality'

David Beckham

Sven-Goran Eriksson says David Beckham will be remembered as the "world's biggest sports personality" after the player announced his retirement on Thursday.

Beckham was Eriksson's captain throughout his tenure as England manager from 2001 to 2006.

The Swede said: "He's a fantastic footballer, fantastic man and probably the world's biggest sports personality.

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

Eriksson, who is now technical director of Al Nasr in Dubai, added: "I remember all the matches with England and all the travelling - airports, hotels - it was all about Beckham, all the time."

The 65-year-old said his abiding memory of Beckham's England career was the stoppage-time free-kick he scored against Greece in 2001 to ensure qualification for the 2002 World Cup.

"David had missed many free-kicks during that game, but was mentally very strong to take it when it was almost overtime, and he scored," he said.

"His biggest quality was that he was extremely professional in everything he was doing - and his right foot was not bad.

"In some way I suppose he will stay in football, I'm quite sure about that, as an ambassador or a coach. I'm not sure he wants to be a manager."

Former England players have also paid tribute to Beckham.

Gary Lineker described Beckham as a great role model, tweeting that he is a "wonderful player, global superstar and a magnificent ambassador for England and football".

Beckham stats

Gary Neville, who played alongside Beckham at Manchester United and England, added: "He has probably been the most influential player out of England in transforming football. The impact he has had is enormous."

Another ex-England team-mate, Darius Vassell, added: "He's never really strayed from the football side of things and some of the younger players can aspire to be like him. He's a great ambassador for the sport."

Lee Sharpe, who played alongside Beckham at United early in his career, said his achievements in football "have been remarkable", adding that he will "achieve a lot" in whatever he does next.

Another former United teammate, Andrei Kanchelskis, added: "He is a big name off the pitch, he is fashionable, maybe he will work as a model. He is a nice personality, a nice football player and I am very pleased I played alongside him. I wish him all the best."

Peter Taylor gave Beckham the England captaincy for the first time back in 2001 when he was caretaker manager.

"I was impressed with the way he played and looked after himself after he had been sent off against Argentina [in the 1998 World Cup] - he handled it superbly. He always wanted to be at England training, he was a very proud man and always wanted to play for his country."

Beckham did not play for England under current manager Roy Hodgson, who has been manager of the national side since May last year. But the former West Bromwich Albion boss hopes he will remain in football in some capacity.

Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Victoria Beckham, David Beckham, Jada Pinkett Smith & Will Smith (l-r)
Gary Lineker: Beckham is a wonderful player, global superstar and a magnificent ambassador

"David is a man with many talents and a lot of people will now be offering him different jobs, but I'm rather hoping we will be able to keep him in football," said Hodgson.

"I congratulate him on a glittering career and wish him well in the future, whatever he chooses to do."

Football Association chairman David Bernstein called Beckham a "great of the game", adding: "David always played with the greatest passion and became an iconic figure in our national game. I am sorry to see him go but wish him and his family very well in his retirement."

Fifa president Sepp Blatter described Beckham as an "inspiration to millions", tweeting: "David grew up as a football-loving child and achieved his dreams, and unquestionably inspired millions of boys and girls to try and do the same."

Beckham's contribution to sport has also been recognised outside of football.

British Olympic Association chairman Lord Coe said: "It is impossible to think about the success of the London 2012 Olympic Games and not reflect upon the extraordinary commitment made by David Beckham.

"At every stage of the London 2012 journey - from the bid phase, to planning for the Games, to the torch relay and the unforgettable summer of sport in 2012, David was a constant source of support and inspiration."

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