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Jul 1, 2003

The Beckham contingent

As David Beckham undergoes his high profile unveiling with Real Madrid, Manchester United can reflect that although they have lost a great player, they have also shed the burden of the intense media circus that surrounds him.

Sir Alex Ferguson only need look at the hype surrounding the England captain's 90 minute physical at Clinica La Zarzuela to reassure himself, if ever he needed to, that he had made the right decision to dispense with the 28-year-old's services.

The medical itself was sponsored by a private company in Spain for £250,000, the first instalment of what Real called a 'self-financing' transfer, and televised on the club's TV channel.

The player himself flew by private jet into a military airport and was driven to the clinic under police escort as over 500 members of the press waited for a 60 second peek at Real's new signing - despite Beckham's announcement that he would not answer questions - and not even Ronaldo, fresh from winning the World Cup, prompted such a response.

Beckham successfully completed the tests and was unveiled at the Real Madrid basketball team's 5,000 capacity Raimundo Saporta - after the usual venue was deemed too small - on Wednesday in a presentation that was translated into Japanese as the club looked to utilize his profile to crack the Asian market.

Beckham's unveiling was described as 'pure theatre' as he took to the stage to receive his new club's shirt from Real legend Alfredo di Stefano. He then donned the full kit as he displayed his skills on the pitch to the screams of adoring school girls and the flash of the snapper's cameras.

Becks has just returned from a promotional tour of the Far East and Madrid travel to Asia, along with their new player, for a pre-season tour that will take in Beijing, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur - which will no doubt boost their profile in the region.

The London-born star also embarked on a similar tour to the USA at the start of the summer - where United will conduct a series of pre-season friendlies - and it is this kind of profile enhancing jaunt during a summer earmarked for recuperation that angered Ferguson.

Beckham has not just had a massive effect on foreign shores. The media attention that he has received in Spain has already ruffled the feathers of a number or Real's hot shots and is rumoured to have been a contributing factor to their post title celebration bust-up.

The move for DB07, as his clothing line is known, has prompted club president Florentino Perez to insist that crowd favourite Raul, who was unhappy after the sacking of coach Vicente del Bosque and the release of skipper Fernando Hierro after the celebrations, will continue to be Real's icon and not Beckham.

Portuguese international Luis Figo has insisted that he will not let Beckham take his place at the Santiago Bernabeu, on the right flank, and Jose Maria Guti has also stated that he will leave Madrid because Beckham will encroach on his chances of first team football.

David Beckham and his wife attract the press on their arrival in Asia.
David Beckham and his wife attract the press on their arrival in Asia.

When the news of Beckham's transfer became public knowledge the former Manchester United player had to issue an apology to Real's disgruntled players because his move threatened to overshadow their Liga title bid.

'I want to apologise to the players because all this has not been caused by me,' he said. 'I did not want to detract from them fighting for the League. I wish them good luck.'

The Englishman also had to scotch media reports that he wanted to take Raul's number seven shirt, the number he had at Old Trafford, insisting he had never even considered taking the number seven off the 'King of Madrid'.

Before Beckham was gifted with the No 23 shirt by Real the debate about which number he should occupy divided and captured public opinion, with Spain's leading sports paper Marca conducting a poll to see which digit he should take.

In the poll over 38 per cent of respondents suggested that Steve McManaman should give up his number for his countryman - likely to stir up more bad blood in the Real camp.

The number four shirt of departing Hierro was up for grabs but others speculated that if Fernando Morientes was transferred before the start of the new campaign. Ronaldo would take the number nine and Beckham would be handed the number 11.

Real quickly opted for the number 23 shirt so that they can start to cash in on replica sales straight away.The problem now with the England skipper is that he needs to be accommodated within the team and critics have suggested that his inclusion will unbalance and unsettle the Real side.

These are exactly the potential problems that Sir Alex Ferguson has rid himself of, and looking on from afar he may consider that he has pulled off another masterstroke as disharmony erupts in Madrid.

But there are a few glitches in his master plan.

Once Beckham settles in Madrid the players are sure to take to the highly likable Englishman and on the pitch, where it counts, he will surely prove his undoubted quality and worth... especially if Real face United in the Champions League.


  • If you have any thoughts you can email Dominic Raynor.