PARIS (Reuters) - David Beckham’s distinguished career took a surprise late twist when the high-profile former England captain joined French club Paris St Germain on Thursday.
The 37-year-old ex-Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder will get as much attention off the pitch as on it with the world’s media trailing him as he settles into the Parisian lifestyle.
“David refused a lot of clubs from around the world, so we’re very happy to have him,” PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi told a news conference at the Parc des Princes.
“He will help us to reach our dream to become one of the best European clubs, he’ll be of big value for the club, he’ll be a big asset.”
“I‘m 37 years old and was offered a lot of offers, more now than I’ve had in my career, and at my age. I‘m honoured by that. I chose Paris because I can see what the club are trying to do, I can see the players the club are bringing in,” said Beckham.
Since taking over less than two years ago, Qatar investors have spent over 200 million euros ($271 million) on transfers, signing Swede striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Argentine internationals Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Lavezzi as well as Brazil centre backs Thiago Silva and Alex.
Beckham, who has signed a five-month contract with PSG, said his wife, former Spice Girls pop group member Victoria, and his children would continue to live in London, adding his salary would be donated to a children’s charity in Paris.
“My family will be staying in London because my kids go to school there,” he said.
“I can see what the club is trying to do. Paris is an exciting city, always has been and always will be but now there’s a club that’s exciting to me. I‘m happy I’ve been picked to be part of the future of PSG. I‘m very excited.”
The Englishman said he would not receive any salary from PSG, with the money being paid instead to a Paris children’s home.
Beckham, who won six Premier League titles and the 1999 Champions League with United, could step on the Geoffroy Guichard pitch in St Etienne for the first time since he was sent off playing for England in a World Cup match against Argentina in 1998.
At that time, the Englishman had longer hair and boyish looks. He is now the second oldest player in Ligue 1, a league he is keen to help grow.
“He may struggle at the highest European level, but he’s got what it takes to be good in the French League,” former PSG goalkeeper Jerome Alonzo told Reuters.
“I might have only signed until the end of the season, but I consider myself to be part of the future of this club: in helping this club to grow and the French league to grow, and to help this club become one of the biggest powerhouses in football,” Beckham added.
He said he did not expect to start every single game.
“I don’t expect to come into this team and play every single game. I have to work for that. If I work hard, it’s down to the manager,” he said.
“I‘m still fit, I can still play like I did when I was 21. I’ve not lost any of my pace because I didn’t have any pace.”
Beckham won league titles in his final season with all three clubs he has played for on a permanent basis; Manchester United, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy.
His career also included two loan spells at AC Milan in 2009 and 2010 during which he played for PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti.
“Carlo is one of the best managers I’ve played for,” Beckham said.
PSG, who have not won the French title since 1994, lead the Ligue 1 standings with 45 points from 22 games.
Beckham conceded he would need a few weeks to gain full fitness and said he was excited to be playing alongside Ibrahimovic.
“He is a personality who goes beyond football, like Zlatan Ibrahimovic perhaps. They are players who give an important visibility to Ligue 1,” France coach Didier Deschamps told reporters.
Beckham said Ibrahimovic was a special player.
“It’s great to have a character like him in a team. He’s a confident player who plays with passion,” he said. “He is one of the players I‘m excited to play alongside.”
Beckham will wear jersey number 32, as did Magic Johnson at the Los Angeles Lakers.
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Additional reporting by Simon Carraud and Olivier Guillemain; Editing by Ed Osmond