Bird at Play: Losses on the pitch

The world has lost two incredible people this week. Well, at least the world of soccer.

Within a week of each other, long time Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and cross-cultural soccer phenomenon David Beckham announced their retirements from the sport to which they gave their lives. Ferguson leaves the helm of the club he has managed for the last 26 years and Beckham will retire from his current club team, Paris St.-Germain of France's Ligue 1, after finishing his final game this weekend.

Their on-field success is without question. It's probably without equal.

In his mid-40s, Ferguson took over a storied franchise that had fallen on hard times and grew it to the world's most valuable sports franchise before stepping down last week. During that span, Ferguson has won an incredible 38 trophies for the club including 13 league titles, two Champions League crowns, five FA Cups and four league cups. He's the Phil Jackson, Chuck Noll, and Joe Torre of his sport all rolled into one.

Beckham, who retires from soccer at the ripe old age of 38, brought titles to four different clubs, in four separate leagues, and in four separate countries. He played in 115 games for the English National Team and served as their captain during the 2006 World Cup.

He won the English Premier League title with Manchester United, Spain's La Liga title with Real Madrid, the Major League Soccer title for the Los Angeles Galaxy, and will close out his career with a French Ligue 1 title for PSG. Bruce Arena, the U.S.'s best professional manager who coached Beckham to two MLS titles says, "I don't think it's unfair to say he put MLS on the map."

Ferguson himself, whom Beckham considers a father figure, said his longevity in the game was "absolutely incredible."

Beckham was never the best player in the world. He's no Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. But as good as the two of them are neither of them holds the star power that Beckham was able to deliver off the field.

Besides marrying a fashion icon and former Spice Girls singer Victoria, Beckham himself made inroads to the world of fashion and made as his "besties" Hollywood celebrities Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

Ferguson, on the other hand, was never comfortable in the spotlight, nor did he like his players to be lost in their own fame. Beckham himself was encouraged to move on after his own celebrity became much bigger than his contribution to the team.

Ferguson had a knack for losing a top level player and developing the "next best thing." All he wanted was to put together the best collection of players each year and deliver titles to his beloved club.

Just like Manchester United when Beckham left, the soccer world will still survive after these two juggle off into the sunset. As expected, they both will take their respective games to the next level as ambassadors, continuing their lifelong service to the beautiful game.

One of the most influential journalists of the 19th century, British economist Walter Bagehot said "An ambassador is not simply an agent; he is also a spectacle."

You'll find no better ones than Ferguson and Beckham.

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