David Beckham's Latest Challenge

CNN's Anderson Cooper Profiles The Soccer Superstar

This segment was originally broadcast on March 23, 2008. It was updated on July 9, 2008.

You've probably heard of soccer player David Beckham, but what might surprise you is that with the possible exception of Tiger Woods, the 33-year-old Englishman is the most well-known and well-compensated athlete in the world.

As Anderson Cooper first reported last March, Beckham had spent his career playing in Europe, but last summer began a five-year contract in the United States for a little-known soccer team called the Los Angeles Galaxy. He was hired to win games, and to finally make soccer into a big-time, moneymaking spectator sport in the U.S.

It is a long shot, but as you're about to discover, David Beckham made his name by performing under pressure.

It was the soccer equivalent of two outs in the bottom of the ninth: with just seconds left against Greece in 2001, David Beckham needed to score to send England's national team to the World Cup finals.

"As soon as I hit the ball, as soon as it left my foot, I knew it was in," Beckham remembers.

Asked how he can know that, Beckham tells Cooper, "I'm sure if you asked Tiger Woods, you know, when he hits a great shot and when he hits the sweet spot, it's the same with soccer. You know, the same when you're takin' a free kick."

That goal solidified Beckham's standing as a soccer legend, but his fame far transcends the sport. With his ever-evolving style, modest demeanor, and wife Victoria, better known as "Posh Spice," he's known around the world. Wherever he goes, he's followed by a traveling scrum of fans and photographers, bodyguards and handlers.

He calls it the "circus."

"When you're asking me about it…I'm sort of, like, yeah, I don't know what to say. It's like, no, I don't see all the fuss," he says.

The "fuss" - part genuine interest, part manufactured hype - has helped turn David Beckham into a one man global brand. He's sold clothes, perfume, phones, pens, sunglasses, and drinks. Recently, when ads for Giorgio Armani underwear debuted, sales jumped 30 percent worldwide.

According to a Beckham source, he earns around $40 million a year from seven current endorsements.

Asked if that interferes with his playing sometimes, Beckham says, "No. Never. That's one thing that I've always be able to keep separate. The commercial things that I do are always set aside. They're always second to my football. And second to, obviously, my soccer, sorry."

"You still say football," Cooper remarks.

"I know. I know. I'm tryin' to get used to it," Beckham replies.

Photos: "Beckham's Debut"

There's a lot to get used to for Beckham: compared to the top European leagues, America's Major League Soccer is in its infancy. The league has 14 teams in cities across the country and one in Toronto. It's backed by wealthy investors, but has lost hundreds of millions of dollars since it was founded in 1996.

"So why come to Los Angeles? You've competed for the best teams in the world. Why come here now?" Cooper asks.

"I just felt that I needed a new challenge," Beckham says.