When I hear the name David Beckham, the first thing I think of is THAT goal from 1996, that spectacular goal scored from the halfway line which marked the beginning of an era. The age of Beckham-Mania was upon the footballing world.

Beckham steals everybody's hearts; he is the iconic heart throb for teenage girls, the 'man crush' of millions and I am yet to meet a football fan who does not have a place in their heart for David Beckham. You just can't help but fall in love with him, his angelic good looks, his sensational footballing ability, his glamorous lifestyle. He is intensely appealing.
THAT goal.
He is the man who was blamed for England's failure in the World Cup of '98 and suffered relentless abuse for his red card against Argentina, but he is also the man who proceeded to resurrect himself with 'the goal that shook the world' against Greece - taking England to the World Cup four years later. He made mistakes sometimes, but he possessed the rare virtue of being able to turn them around.

After an illustrious career, the love affair with Becks inevitably renders millions including himself heartbroken. Thursday night bore the gut wrenching news that David Beckham would be accompanying the legendary likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Paul Scholes into retirement. The resignation of these footballing greats resembles an epoch in football, and the dawn of a new generation rises. Old school football may be a distant memory as a new era of football begins.

David Beckham has always been something of an enigma. He has always carried an essence of elegance, grace and modest superiority. He ignores the worth fans have projected upon him, and remains as normal as is possible, influencing the realisation for fans that he is human, just like us. He shares the common features we were born with; despite his inexplicable talent, he is one of us. This ability to platform himself with his fans is what sets Beckham apart from players like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

There is an invincibility surrounding Messi and Ronaldo, a perhaps misunderstood perception felt by fans of an 'untouchable-ness', putting the two extraordinary players on a pedestal, ergo creating a distance between them and the fans. Beckham has managed to avoid becoming a 'statue' footballer, he remains in touch with his fans, he retains an element of normality balanced with his full time role of idol. He resembles the Kate Middleton of football.

His relentless charity work contributes to this normality. Although he is famously noted as the highest paid footballer, (with the vast majority of his wealth coming from sponsorship's, advertisements and his own products) when he joined Paris Saint-Germaine he committed to donating his salary to a children's charity in Paris. Some have said this act was barely commendable; he holds such wealth that donation should be mandatory. His wealth is incomparable and unrecognisable for the majority of us, but it still seemed a humble and respectful precedent to set.

Even if one disagreed with the public commendation he received for donating his salary, he cannot be criticised for giving to charity. By promising to give his wages to the children's charity, he has managed to help those in need who would not have received that help had he not donated that amount.

Beckham has also shown signs of mortality in his career; he has got things wrong before and has been criticised in the past. He has demonstrated the sometimes desirable imperfections of football and it can be reassuring for fans to note their heroes are not entirely perfect. Beckham's mortality resurfaced as the image of him in tears circulated following his substitution during Saturday's game against Brest. The image was powerful, a photo of intense emotion capable of moving concrete.

The media have attached themselves to Beckham's personal life like iron filings to a magnet. His personal life with wife Victoria has always been deemed of utmost importance by most tabloid newspapers. Whether the stories focused on scandals such as the Rebecca Loos incident, or concentrated on his latest tattoo and it's significance, the media were always there. This combined with the continuous analysis of his ever changing hairstyles has sometimes resulted in a lack of appreciation for his persistent dedication, commitment and undeniable hard work in football.

His achievements are astonishing; he became the first Englishman to win league titles in four different countries (England, Spain, USA, France), he became the first English player to score in three different World Cups and also became the first British footballer to play 100 Champions League matches. For these, he deserves applause. When questioned on how he wants to be remembered during his retirement, Beckham said: "I just want people to see me as a hardworking footballer, someone that's passionate about the game, someone that - every time I stepped on the pitch - I've given it everything that I have, because that's how I feel. That's how I look back on it and hope people will see me."

He has inspired, motivated and encouraged the next generation of aspiring footballers, whether they attended his football academies or not. The title of an award winning film refers to his renowned skill at scoring free kicks. His charity work has been rewarded with ambassadorial success and the title of "Britain's Greatest Ambassador." He has become an influential power in football with his household name status, his footballing achievements and his personal commitments. His former teammate and close friend Gary Neville agreed; "In leaving the country, to Milan, LA, Paris, 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."

For the supreme goals, beautiful and sometimes bizarre array of hairstyles, dedication and commitment to the national team, and sheer longevity, we thank you, David Beckham.