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Nov 20, 2012

Heart, Wanderers best bets for Beckham

Sydney and Melbourne are set to battle for sporting and celebrity kudos following David Beckham's decision to embark on "one last challenge" before he retires.

The 37-year-old announced in Los Angeles on Monday that he'll play his last game for LA Galaxy next month after six seasons with the Major League Soccer club in the United States.

Beckham's news sparked rapid responses from A-League clubs, with five teams keen to lure the superstar midfielder to Australia - most likely for a 10-game guest stint from January.

Perth were the quickest to move, declaring on Twitter the "race is on" to sign Beckham a day after owner Tony Sage said the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star is firmly in his sights.

Adelaide United and Central Coast also confirmed they are keen to table a formal offer to Beckham, who will play his last game for the Galaxy in the MLS Cup final against Houston Dynamo on December 1.

But with celebrity wife Victoria in tow, it would seem incongruous the power couple would chose Perth, Adelaide or Gosford after living in big, cosmopolitan cities such as Milan, Madrid and LA.

"I see him sitting courtside at LA Lakers games, I don't think he's going to come here and sit courtside at Adelaide 36ers games," Reds defender Iain Fyfe said on Tuesday.

So if Beckham opts for Australia, the two biggest cities and long-time sporting and cultural rivals on the eastern seaboard are poised for a bidding war.

Sydney FC said they have other priorities, such as finding a new coach, and have $3 million worth of marquee talent already signed in Alessandro Del Piero and Brett Emerton.

Melbourne Victory mentor Ange Postecoglou last week flatly denied his club are interested.

That leaves Melbourne Heart and first-season club West Sydney Wanderers the most likely destination for Beckham, who earned $A6.3 million per season with the LA Galaxy.

Heart chief executive Scott Munn said that while there'll be a lot of clubs around the world in the running, he believes they're in with a big chance.

"We're putting forward an offer, it's compelling and the opportunity is here for him to come here," Munn told reporters on Tuesday.

"He's incredibly fit - he's still playing so he can hit the ground running in that January window and play right through to the end of the season."

Wanderers chairman Lyall Gorman said last week the club, which is owned by Football Federation Australia, would consider making a play for Beckham.

"If any approach was made we'd do what we'd do with any approach and assess it from our current football needs than from a commercial aspect," Gorman told AAP last Friday.

FFA chairman Frank Lowy had previously offered to put the money up if the Wanderers wanted to sign German international Michael Ballack before coach Tony Popovic scuppered the deal.

With the A-League basking in the glory of its best-ever season thanks to high-profile off-season signings Alessandro Del Piero, Shinji Ono and Emile Heskey, the recruitment of Beckham would no doubt provide another surge of interest in the domestic league.

In his six seasons with the Galaxy, Beckham's stint coincided with a period of unrivalled growth for both the club and the MLS.

Seven MLS expansion teams have debuted since 2007 while average attendances have consistently risen and lucrative television deals have set the game up for further growth in a highly competitive sporting market.

As David Gallop settles into his new role as FFA boss, he'll be looking to offer any assistance to ensure the A-League provides the final test for Beckham to cap a glittering career.

"I've had an incredibly special time playing for the LA Galaxy, however, I wanted to experience one last challenge before the end of my playing career," Beckham said on the Galaxy's website.

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