This is 40: David Beckham hits the magic number
Published 28/04/2015 | 10:47
David Beckham turns 40 this Saturday, but there is no sign of England's most famous sporting export taking a step back from the limelight any time soon.
It says much about Beckham's work ethic that just under two years ago, shortly after walking off the pitch at the Parc des Princes in tears, the former England captain boarded a flight to Miami.
Beckham was not marking his move into retirement with a week on the famous gold sands of South Beach - although few would blame him for doing so after going through a draining 22-year playing career.
He was heading to Florida to get the ball rolling on his next career move.
In truth, the ball had been rolling for six years. As soon as Beckham signed for the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007, he had the first stage of his 'retirement' sorted.
Beckham and his advisers made sure a clause was inserted into his contract that would allow him to create his own Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise.
Since kicking his last ball in anger, Beckham has been working hard to put the finishing touches to the franchise.
Those close to Beckham say they expect financial backers and stadium location - there has been opposition from some locals - to be finalised in the months that follow his 40th birthday celebrations this weekend.
If the right backers are secured, Beckham hopes to turn the Miami franchise into a super-club with the financial clout of Chelsea, Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain, with whom he ended his career.
Just the mention of Beckham's name will help. After all, he is a marketing dream.
"If you were looking for someone to represent you, he would be first on the list," sponsorship marketing consultant Nigel Currie says.
"He has got a unique pulling power. He appeals to everyone."
Beckham has nine major sponsorship deals with some of the biggest brands in the world like Adidas, H&M and Jaguar.
He is a pioneer. A man who made the leap from footballer to mega-rich global icon in the space of a few years.
"Retired footballers used to open pubs," Currie adds.
"But he has broken so many barriers.
"He has taken himself into areas which go well beyond football, whether it be fashion, or music.
"He has a celebrity wife and now almost a celebrity family, he has unbelievable ability to grasp the PR side of things. His earnings will just go up."
The weekend before Beckham and his wife Victoria jetted off to a secret location - rumoured to be Morocco - to celebrate the star's 40th, they were named as the 410th richest people in the UK.
According to the Sunday Times Rich List, the Beckhams are worth an eye-watering £240million.
Long gone are the days when he used to earn £10 a shift collecting glasses at Walthamstow dog track.
Beckham had determined his career path from an early age. He wanted to be a professional footballer. He had trials with Leyton Orient and Tottenham, but his father Ted had already determined where his son would play.
"His dad was a United fan, David was a United fan. He had United in his blood," says Paddy Crerand, who played for United over 300 times.
Crerand took great joy in watching Beckham go from youth team star as part of the famous Class of '92 to international star.
Some United fans - and Sir Alex Ferguson, of course - objected to Beckham's fame, claiming it distracted him from his game.
But there is no doubt in Crerand's mind that Beckham ranks among the other great number sevens at the club like George Best, Eric Cantona, Bryan Robson and Cristiano Ronaldo.
"He definitely is a Manchester United great," Crerand adds.
"He did some fantastic things for Manchester United.
"He dreamed of playing for Manchester United, but your dreams are only fulfilled when you have the ability though and he had the ability.
"He had a brilliant right foot but it wasn't just that - he had brains to go with it.
"It wasn't just the passing, it was the thought behind the pass. That's why his career lasted so long. David was one of those types of players. He didn't need to run. The ball did the running for him."
Beckham scored 85 goals, won six Premier League titles and was part of the famous United team that won the most dramatic Champions League final in history in 1999.
"Everyone remembers the goals in extra-time, but David was the one who took the corner kicks," Crerand recalls.
Ferguson warmly embraced Beckham after the final whistle, but four years later - after the Scot kicked a boot at the player's head, accidentally he insists - they parted ways.
The "starry-eyed" teenager who joined United in 1991 had turned into someone who had "made it his mission to be known outside the game," the Scot determined.
Beckham held no grudges against Ferguson though.
"I have to thank him. He has always been a father figure to me and I'll never forget that," he said after signing for Real Madrid for £25million.
Beckham would add the Spanish title to his trophy collection before he departed for LA in 2007 and won the MLS Cup twice.
Galaxy fans forgave him for leaving them for prolonged loan spells at AC Milan and as soon as he won Ligue 1 with PSG at the age of 38, he returned to America.
With the Miami project now well under way, and Beckham's four children being subjected to public scrutiny, there is nothing to stop Brand Beckham continuing its takeover of the world even though his playing days are now two years behind him.
Maybe life does begin at 40.