Forum Spin Doctor
LOS ANGELES - Now that Real Madrid says it won't use David Beckham anymore, Major League Soccer could move to buy out the remaining months on his contract and bring the star midfielder to the United States in time for the start of the league's season in April.
Such a move would involve MLS working out a transfer with Real Madrid - including paying the Spanish team a percentage of Beckham's $11.3 million salary on top of a transfer fee - before the current window to transfer international players closes Jan. 31.
Beckham agreed to a five-year contract last week with the Los Angeles Galaxy, a deal that starts after his contract with the Spanish club expires June 30. Real Madrid coach Fabio Capello said Sunday that Beckham will no longer play for the team, just practice.
"We would love to have David Beckham at the earliest opportunity, but I'm not holding my breath," Galaxy general manager Alexi Lalas told The Associated Press on Monday. "We have structured everything based upon the assumption that he is going to be available after the season with Real Madrid."
Beckham spokesman Simon Oliveira said Monday that the 31-year-old Englishman intends to fulfill the rest of his Real Madrid contract. Reports in Europe, however, say he could soon leave the club and head for Los Angeles. His Galaxy deal is worth up to $250 million in salary and potential commercial and endorsement income.
"Until the club sits down with him to address the situation, David will continue to train with Real Madrid until the end of the season with his usual professionalism," Oliveira told the AP.
MLS commissioner Don Garber said Monday that Beckham will remain a Madrid player until his contract expires, denying a Spanish newspaper story that said Beckham's lawyers were trying to arrange his early release.
"There have been many recent reports from the news media that have attributed incorrect quotes from my office, including fabricated quotes that were attributed directly to me earlier today," said Garber, who is vacationing in Mexico.
Marca, a daily newspaper in Spain, quoted Garber as saying: "I understand that the lawyers of David Beckham are working to arrange a possible friendly way out with the white club because we would not be able to pay the buy-out clause. We want to have him as soon as possible and for this reason Galaxy and the league itself are going to do what is necessary to bring him as soon as possible. In addition, David wants to come soon."
Galaxy coach Frank Yallop was quoted in British newspapers as saying the team would see if it can get Beckham earlier than August.
"We have to wait and see what the details of his Real Madrid contract are, and if he can get out of it," Yallop was quoted as saying. "Under normal circumstances he would join us in August, but we will see if he can come sooner."
Asked whether MLS is working on a transfer involving Beckham, Lalas said, "I have no absolutely no knowledge of that. It's not appropriate for me to comment on a player that's under contract to another team."
By agreeing to a transfer, Real Madrid could recoup a percentage of Beckham's salary this season as opposed to getting nothing when he becomes a free agent on July 1.
Lalas said he and Yallop will travel to Spain at some point to meet with Beckham and "make sure he's comfortable with the direction that we're going and also inform him. There is a great unknown for him over here, too."
Capello's decision leaves Beckham with the prospect of a lengthy layoff following Jan. 7, his last appearance for Real Madrid.
"We want him to be playing as much as possible to keep up fitness and to keep sharp, but we have no absolutely no say or should we in the coaching situation at Real Madrid," Lalas said.
"Even if he were not to play for a period of time, he would have no problem in a very short time being match fit."
Los Angeles says it has sold over 5,000 full season tickets since the Beckham announcement. The so-called "Beckham effect" also has boosted ticket sales for other MLS teams, he said.
"We are in uncharted territory here," Lalas said.
On Sunday, Capello criticized Beckham for signing with the Galaxy before informing the Madrid club.
"He signed his contract before he spoke with Madrid and for me that doesn't seem right," Capello said after Madrid's 1-0 home victory over Real Zaragoza, a game Beckham watched from a spectator box.
"If a player has a contract (with another club) it isn't right that you continue to treat him as just another player."
In an interview with Spain's Onda Cero radio, Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon also took issue with Beckham's conduct.
"We have been given the run-around for the past two months," Calderon said. "We were never told that he had signed for another club, that he had the house bought and had everything ready to go. That, to me, is not right."
Oliveira said Beckham had made his intentions clear to club officials in a meeting before signing with the Galaxy.
"We've done everything above board," Oliveira said. "We made our intentions clear to Real Madrid that David wasn't staying at the club before meeting with the Galaxy."
Beckham joined Real Madrid from Manchester United in 2003. The team hasn't won a major trophy since, and the former England captain was mainly a substitute this season.