David Beckham: The devoted dad

Story highlights

  • David Beckham found it difficult without wife and children in Paris
  • Beckham described as a "devoted dad" by Paris Saint-Germain colleague
  • PSG assistant manager Paul Clement pays tribute to midfielder
  • Clement says he had a feeling Beckham would retire at end of season

A pop star wife, an estimated annual salary of $46 million and the most iconic player of this generation -- but to those who know the "real" David Beckham, he is just a "normal guy" and a "devoted dad".

When Beckham announced his decision to retire from football Thursday, there was one man who had already anticipated such an event.

Paul Clement, the assistant manager of Paris Saint-Germain, became a close confidante of his compatriot Beckham following the midfielder's arrival in the French capital last January.

Nights in his exclusive suite at Le Bristol hotel were luxurious, but the distance between the 38-year-old and the rest of his family is believed to be one of the key factors in his decision to retire.

While his former Spice Girl wife, Victoria, remained at home with children Brooklyn, Romeo, Cruz and Harper, Beckham spent time talking through his troubles to a man with a sympathetic ear.

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"The impression from the very first time we met was that he was a devoted dad," Clement told CNN.

    "He was very hands-on with the kids and, talking to people who knew him, I knew he wanted to be involved.

    "I think that being away from his family, them being in London and him being in Paris, was difficult for him.

    "We used to talk about our kids all the time and he asked me questions and we chatted about schooling and what they were up to.

    "He missed them and I think that was a huge part of his decision to call it a day. I just had a feeling he might retire."

    In an exclusive interview with CNN last month, Beckham spoke of the difficulty of being away from his family.

    "That's the sacrifice I have to make as a father and as a husband: being away from my family," Beckham said.

    "It is only for a short time, but it's difficult being away from the children every single day. But they understand it. They understand that Daddy works hard."

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    It is an experience which has caused some anguish for the former England captain, who takes great pride in being both a father and a husband, but has had to balance that with a busy traveling schedule.

    Not only has he played in Spain, the United States and Italy, he has also kept up his many business and charity commitments and recently agreed to become a football ambassador for China.

    "The kids have moved across the world and I think he wanted them to have some stability," added Clement.

    "The oldest, Brooklyn, is 14 now and it's important for him to get his education and feel settled and I think David felt that was crucial.

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    "It was great to have him around and talk, but I've got my family here and that's been so good for me.

    "David has four kids and he really missed them. They're a tight unit and he found it difficult."

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    For Clement, Beckham's arrival came at time of personal tragedy.

    His friend and colleague, PSG's former nutritionist Nick Broad, died in a highway accident last January. It was a period of great difficulty for Clement on a personal level and for all of those at the club.

    But in Beckham, he found somebody to confide in and talk to -- a man completely different to that portrayed in fashion magazines and tabloid newspapers.

    "He's just a normal guy," said Clement.

    "He's quite shy in his own way, but he's good to be around and he likes to have a laugh and be with his friends.

    "For me, it was great that he was there just after Nick died because that was an awful time.

    "It was great to have him around. It was a bit weird at first, because I'd read so much about him through the press and had my own impression.

    "But speaking to people who knew him, I knew he was an absolute gentleman. For somebody so famous, he's just a normal guy. He's very professional, does all the right things and is a great example to the younger players."

    Despite his advancing years, Beckham appeared to be in peak condition, showing a level of fitness which would embarrass some of the younger players in the PSG squad.

    But while he may have yet been able to continue playing, the off-field situation gave an inkling of what was to come, according to Clement.

    Read: The secret behind 'Brand Beckham'

    "I had a feeling it might happen and he's going out at the top, which is the way he would like it," he added.

    "He could have continued on a football level because he's certainly fit enough. But he might have been a bit-part player next season or had to move to another club and I think he wanted to go out at the very top.

    "He's really enjoyed being in Paris and competing at a high level after time in the U.S. He may have not thought it would have ever happened again, but he made the most of it."

    While Beckham will curtail his time in Paris at the end of the season, Clement hopes to remain to continue his work alongside manager Carlo Ancelotti.

    But although the midfielder will exit following the final game against Lorient on May 27, his time at the club will not be forgotten.

    "It's nice to work with good players," said Clement. "But it's more important to work with good people."

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