A clearly emotional Beckham was mobbed by his teammates on the field when coach Carlo Ancelotti decided to substitute him in the 81st minute of a 3-1 win over Brest on Saturday.
Even goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu ran out to congratulate the former England captain on his career, while Brazil winger Lucas bowed in reverence.
As the crowd rose to its feet – including former President Nicolas Sarkozy – Beckham applauded in return as he walked off the pitch slowly before being replaced by Ezequiel Lavezzi.
“I want to say thank you to everybody in Paris. To my teammates, to the staff, to the fans,” Beckham said after the game. “It’s been very special to finish my career here. It could not have been any more special.”
Beckham announced on Thursday that he would retire at the end of the season, with PSG having already secured the French league title.
“I just feel that it’s the right time. I feel that I’ve achieved everything that I could in my career. I wanted to go out as a champion,” Beckham said. “I’ve finished my career in a team that has treated me like I’ve been here for 10 years.
PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said it was unlikely that Beckham would feature in the last game of the season away to Lorient on May 26.
“We have to decide, but I don’t think he will play. He will come with the team but I don’t think he will play … a plastic pitch is difficult for a 38-year-old,” Ancelotti said, before praising Beckham’s impact on world football.
“He will miss the world of football because he showed a good image every time, really professional. It was a fantastic evening for him. He will have a very good memory of this night,” Ancelotti said. “When you finish, when you stop, you have memories of all the years.”
Ancelotti joked that Beckham should have scored. “I spoke with David and told him in my last game I scored two goals,” he said.
“I said to him ‘Maybe tonight you’ll score two goals’ – but maybe he didn’t have my quality.”
While Zlatan Ibrahimovic was PSG’s key player against Brest, scoring twice, the occasion was Beckham’s from the start. He was given the captain’s armband for the first time since joining the team in January, and was given a rousing reception at Parc des Princes before the game, with fans breaking out into chants of “Merci, David” (Thank You, David) when his name was read out over the stadium speaker.
“After 22 years of playing football I’m going to take a few months to enjoy time with my family,” Beckham said, before adding that he still wants to stay involved with PSG. “It’s been a very special place for me.”
He showed he can still contribute on the field as well, setting up midfielder Blaise Matuidi for PSG’s second goal with a well-taken corner in the 31st minute.
When it came time to leave the pitch, chants of “Dav-eed Beckham, Dav-eed Beckham” broke out among the French fans – who rarely embrace anything English – while the entire PSG trotted over to give him a hug. Even Brest’s Charlison Benschop – who had scored the team’s consolation goal a minute earlier – walked over to shake his hand.
“It’s a historic moment,” the stadium announcer intoned as Beckham was substituted. He said “Dav-eeeed” and the 44,983-strong crowd roared back “Beeeeeck-ham!”
As Beckham walked slowly off with his hair uncharacteristically bedraggled, his mother, Sandra, also wiped away a tear in the stands.
His replacement Ezequiel Lavezzi, gave Beckham a bear hug and then cheekily ruffled the fashion icon’s hair. Beckham immediately swept it back into place.
After blowing a kiss to wife Victoria and his children in the stands as he walked off, there was time for one more hug – this one a bit longer from Ancelotti – before he sat down on the bench.
PSG won the league title last weekend, making Beckham the first English player to win the championship in four different countries after title success with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Los Angeles Galaxy. Saturday’s match was Beckham’s 14th since joining PSG, and his fifth start.
PSG’s players walked out to a thunderous reception and with Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit” reverberating around the Parc des Princes. PSG right back Christophe Jallet dyed his hair in the blue, white and red of the French flag, while the players all wore next season’s team jerseys.
After the final whistle, his teammates hoisted Beckham off the ground and repeatedly tossed him up in the air, putting a smile back on his face.
The league title celebrations then kicked in as the lights were turned off, light sticks were held up and the crowd broke out into song. Fireworks then flew into the night sky – accompanied by an “Ole!” as each one went off.
One after the other, the players walked out onto a makeshift podium and thanked the crowd. When it came to Beckham’s turn to climb onto the podium, the Beatles song ‘Hello, Goodbye’ rang out as the stadium’s big screen beamed pictures of Beckham’s short PSG career and flashed up another message of thanks.
Draped in the English flag, it was Beckham’s turn to offer some final words to the crowd.
“Merci, Paris,” Beckham said. “I’m very sad to be leaving, but thank you.”