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: "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."
McClaren added: "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."
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, who won 115 caps for England, more than any other outfield player, 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.
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."