Former England manager Steve McClaren hailed David Beckham as a great of the modern game after the former national team captain announced his retirement.
Beckham, who was instantly dropped when McClaren inherited the England job from Sven-Goran Eriksson in 2006, is to quit the game at the end of the season.
He bows out as a Ligue 1 winner with Paris St Germain, with the 38-year-old deciding the time is right to step away from his illustrious playing career.
Beckham eventually won over McClaren in their England days, earning a recall.
And McClaren said today: "He was a great player.
"He made the very most of his talents through sheer hard work and professionalism and always doing extra work on the training field.
"He inspired his team-mates through his performances.
"He was a winner, he's won so many things in his career, and that was infectious on his team-mates.
"And he was an inspiring personality to young players with his behaviour and professionalism on and off the field.
"But ultimately he was a leader and people followed him.
"The young players followed him in how he played and in his personality, and even off the field the young players of today are following him through his fashion."
McClaren told Sky Sports News: "By the end of his career he was a fantastic ambassador, not only for football around the world but for our country as well in helping bring major events to this country."
Beckham had a role in bringing the Olympic Games to London, but it will be his footballing feats for Manchester United, Real Madrid, PSG, LA Galaxy and AC Milan for which he will be remembered.
"He has been very special in that right midfield position," McClaren said.
"He was an unbelievable passer, crosser of the ball, and he could score goals as well.
"My lasting memory of David Beckham is him continuously being the last off the training pitch and always practising those trademark free-kicks."
Beckham won 115 caps for England, more than any other outfield player.
But on the big stage, England repeatedly struggled to achieve, falling in quarter-finals at World Cups in 2002 and 2006 and Euro 2004.
"Because he was a big part of that, he was very frustrated by that," said McClaren.
Beckham's former Manchester United team-mate and long-time friend Gary Neville is in Paris, having travelled to meet Beckham.
He discussed the midfielder's decision with him and was able to offer some insight into his thinking.
"He just feel it's the right time," Neville told Sky Sports News.
"He just feels he's taken it as far as he can. He wanted to come back home, he's been away for 22 years and he's got to the end of the road.
"He's won another championship at PSG, that's four in four countries, and he just wants to come home."
Neville also paid tribute to the way Beckham has not only influenced football but also transcended it.
"You look at it and think 'wow', he's got an incredible array of caps and medals, an incredible longevity," said Neville.
"He played in the greatest midfield I've ever played with: David, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane and Paul Scholes. David was a crosser of the ball, a passer of the ball. He had incredible stamina and energy. He was a joy to play with.
"And when you think back on the way football has changed over the last 22 years, he has probably been the most influential player in that time out of England in terms of transforming football.
"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.
"That's why you see him working as an ambassador for the Olympics."
England manager Roy Hodgson acknowledges that Beckham's level of global celebrity could lead to opportunities in a variety of different fields, but hopes he remains active within the game.
"I wish him well in the future whatever he chooses to do and I personally hope that will be in football," Hodgson told Sky Sports News.
"David is a man of many talents and a lot of people now will be wanting him for different jobs and roles, some of which could take him away from us in football.
"But I'm rather hoping we'll be able to keep him in football because we can really benefit from his experience, we can really benefit from his charisma and we certainly benefit from the magnificent past he has had as a football player."
Hodgson also revealed that Beckham, despite not being involved as an international player under Hodgson, had been in contact with him to wish the side well.
He added: "In David Beckham England have a very big fan and a very great supporter."
Football Association chairman David Bernstein praised Beckham for his on- and off-field efforts for English football.
A statement carried by the FA's official website read: "It is quite amazing that in a week when Sir Alex Ferguson has retired that we now have David Beckham, another great of the game, ending his unique and hugely successful playing career.
"I would like to pay tribute to David for his outstanding contribution to English football. He has been such a great ambassador for the game at home and abroad and was a tremendous performer for his clubs and England.
"David always played with the greatest passion and became an iconic figure in our national game.
"I am sorry to see him go but wish him and his family very well in his retirement. I am sure he will have so much to give back to the game in future, whatever he chooses to do."
Former Manchester United star Gordon McQueen suggested that Beckham's best days were spent with the Red Devils, despite his continued success at Real Madrid, AC Milan, Los Angeles Galaxy and most recently Paris St Germain.
He told Sky Sports News: "I felt that for the last three or four years possibly he's been a global celebrity superstar and it's not been about football. I think his career was on the slide when he left Manchester United; I know he went to Madrid and did alright and won the league, but when he went to America it was the beginning of the end."
Sven-Goran Eriksson, whose tenure as England manager between 2001 and 2006 coincided with some of Beckham's best years, not to mention his captaincy, told BBC Radio Five Live: "He is a fantastic footballer and a fantastic person. All over the world you say 'David Beckham' and people know who that is.
"I don't think any other football player is more popular than he."
Meanwhile, a Downing Street spokesman gave Prime Minister David Cameron's verdict.
"The Prime Minister's view is that David Beckham has been an outstanding footballer throughout his career, but not only that, he has been a brilliant ambassador for this country, not least if we remember all the work he did on helping us win London 2012," said the spokesman.
"The Prime Minister's message would simply be to say: congratulations on a fantastic career."
AC Milan, who signed Beckham twice on loan during the Major League Soccer off-season, posted a statement of thanks to the player on their official website.
The club acknowledged that his initial arrival was not universally deemed to be good business, but praised his contribution at the San Siro.
"His arrival at the club may have been greeted with some skepticism but his performances as a player quickly won over the non-believers," it read.
"Two goals against Genoa and Bologna as well as 29 appearances with AC Milan helped the team towards two Champions League qualifications.
"Thank you and good luck from all the fans and everyone at the club to David Beckham."