David Beckham

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The boy from East London first made everyone sit up and take notice when he scored a wonder goal on the first day of the 1995/6 English football season. In lobbing a 60-yard belter that beat the goalkeeper, he marked the arrival of a football phenomenon. But his influence soon extended far beyond the beautiful game.

Born in Leytonstone on May 2, 1975, David Robert Joseph Beckham was a Manchester United fan from a very early age. He even insisted on wearing a Red Devils shirt when training with London club Tottenham Hotspur as a schoolboy. The admiration was mutual: the biggest football club in the world had its eye on the young player and, aged 16, he signed as a trainee with Man U.

The skinny teenager rose from cleaning the boots of older players to making his league debut in 1995, just a month shy of his 20th birthday. But it wasn't until 1997 that he really emerged into the spotlight after falling for Spice Girl Victoria Adams.

The attraction between the couple was instant, and after a ten-month courtship they announced their engagement. "I've met the man I know I'm going to grow old and wrinkly with," enthused Victoria.

In 1998 the golden boy of British football flew to New York where the Spice Girls were on tour. And it was here the couple's son Brooklyn Joseph was reportedly conceived.

Beckham junior kicked off life on March 4, 1999, at London's Portland Hospital. Four months later his parents tied the knot in a lavish ceremony at Dublin's Luttrelstown Castle.

Brooklyn was joined by second son Romeo on September 1, 2002, with their third son, Cruz, making his debut in early 2005. Baby girl Harper Seven was born in July 2011.

In November 2003, David received what he described as his "best" honour – an OBE from the Queen. "It's not just for me but for Manchester United, England, all of my teammates and my family," he said.

The same year it was announced the devoted Manchester United fan would be leaving his beloved club and moving to Real Madrid on a four-year contract.

Another monumental decision came just after England bowed out of the 2006 World Cup in the quarter-final stage. The soccer ace announced he was to step down as captain of the squad  – a role he held for six years. "It has been an honour and a privilege to captain our country and I wish to stress that I want to continue to play for England," he declared.

The success enjoyed by David on the football pitch was equalled by that of "Brand Beckham". Marketing initiatives based on his iconic status included an aftershave as well as lucrative sponsorship deals  – with the likes of Gilette, Pepsi, Armani and Motorola.

In addition, David launched his own range of men's underwear with high street store H&M. The sports hero teamed up with film director Guy Ritchie to film one of the adverts for his range. David regularly features in the spotlight for his fashion choices and his collection of tattoos.

Keen to pass on his love for football, David branched out into establishing football academies for young people in the UK and the United States. The star transferred to Los Angeles Galaxy in July 2007, hoping to increase the game's popularity Stateside.

After five and a half years, the family returned to Britain in 2013, with Victoria declaring: "London is our home, our family live here. We are very proud to be British".

David played for Paris St German for five months before announcing plans to retire. His last match was an emotional one. He came on to the pitch wearing specially created boots in the colours of the Union Jack, with the names of his wife and children etched on them.

When he was substituted after 80 minutes, the most popular player in football was given hugs by his teammates as well as a standing ovation by fans.

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