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David Beckham’s retirement refusal forced Gary Neville into career rethink


Former England captain David Beckham reflected on his international career in a conversation with his ex-Manchester United and Three Lions colleague Gary Neville

David Beckham has opened up about his England career
David Beckham has opened up about his England career

Gary Neville has admitted David Beckham’s words about international football stayed with him when it came to assessing his own international career.

Beckham and Neville spent several years playing together for Manchester United and England. However, while others stepped away from the international game early – most notably, Paul Scholes quit England duty aged just 29 – Neville was happy to let the national manager decide when he was no longer needed.

The right-back made his first England appearance in 1995 and his last in 2007, continuing to play for United for years after that until the time came to hang up his boots for good. And, reflecting on his career with former colleague Beckham, Neville pointed to the pair’s common stance.

“I used to say it to my dad – ‘I never want to retire from international football’,” Beckham told his former teammate on Neville’s ‘The Overlap’ YouTube channel. “If I don’t get picked again, I don’t get picked. But I never want to be one of those players who steps down from playing and representing my country.

“I might have stepped down from the captaincy because I thought it was the right time to let someone else take over. But I never thought that I was stepping away from playing my country.”

Beckham was named as England captain in 2000, taking over from Alan Shearer after the striker’s international retirement. He gave up the captaincy in 2006 after the World Cup but continued to represent the Three Lions, winning his 115th and final cap in 2009.

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Neville and Beckham were long-time teammates for club and country
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Image:

Daily Mirror)

“I always remember you saying when you were younger – ‘England will retire me, I won’t retire from England’,” Neville responded. “I adopted the same stance off the back of that because I agree with you.

“I don’t believe it’s a player’s right to retire – you get picked or you don’t. And if you they want you, you go and play.”

Neville ended his England career with 85 caps, having earned his first tournament experience as a 21-year-old at Euro 96. His final cap came in February 2007 against Spain, during a period where Beckham was briefly out of the international picture having been dropped by manager Steve McClaren after giving up the captaincy.

While the two Englishmen began their careers together at Manchester United, Beckham had long left Old Trafford by the time his stint with the Three Lions came to an end. By 2009, he had moved to Major League Soccer with LA Galaxy after a spell with Real Madrid, and would end his playing career for good with a half-season at Paris Saint-Germain in 2013.

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