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By ESPN Staff
Jan 12, 2007

Real Madrid to bench LA-bound Beckham

David Beckham says he's coming to America to play soccer. His European club coach in Spain says Beckham won't be playing any more for him. Beckham won't play again for Real Madrid after announcing his departure at the end of the season for the Los Angeles Galaxy of the MLS, coach Fabio Capello said Saturday in Spain.

"He is not going to play any more. He will practice, but he is not going to play," Capello said at a news conference.

Beckham announced this week he will not extend his contract with Real Madrid when it expires in June and is instead leaving for the Galaxy and a five-year deal.

The announcement by Capello raises the possibility that Beckham's arrival in the U.S., which had been expected in August after he fulfilled his commitment to Real Madrid, could be moved up.

"The player's decision is to go to Los Angeles. He has always been a great professional, but a player who has such a major contract with another team," Capello added. "We cannot count on him."

Capello said he'd not spoken with Beckham since the former England captain announced his new deal.

On Friday, Beckham insisted he's coming to Los Angeles to play soccer, not build a Hollywood career.

"I'm coming there to make a difference. I'm coming there to play football," Beckham said via satellite from Madrid. "I'm not saying me coming to the States is going to make soccer the biggest sport in America. ... But I think soccer has a huge, huge potential. I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't believe in this project. This could create something that we've all never seen before."

Wearing a black suit with white shirt and black tie, Beckham shared his thoughts a day after agreeing to a five-year contract with the LA Galaxy that could be worth $250 million.

Beckham to U.S.
David Beckham talks about leaving Real Madrid for the Los Angeles Galaxy and MLS.
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Those who orchestrated the deal are convinced Beckham not only will raise soccer's profile in America but help the Galaxy win.

"David is still a very good player," said Tim Leiweke of AEG, the sports and entertainment company that runs the Galaxy. "Peyton Manning in football, the other football, Allen Iverson in basketball and Tiger Woods in golf are all the same age (31) as Beckham.

"Certainly, he will bring an audience, a fan base and an intensity to our sport that we've never had."

The Galaxy didn't say exactly what they'll pay him. Their $250 million figure includes salary and commercial endorsements over the length of Beckham's contract. In other words, his move could be worth $1 million a week.

"I'm coming there not be a superstar," Beckham said. "I'm coming there to be part of the team, to work hard and to hopefully win things."

He'll show up in August as the most recognizable soccer player in the world who just happens to be married to the former Posh Spice of The Spice Girls and counts Tom Cruise among his closest friends.

"That's going to be a big help to us, to have friends when we arrive in L.A.," Beckham said. "I talked with him for about an hour last night and an hour the night before.

"I told him there might be an announcement, and asked him for his advice as well. He's a very wise man and a very good friend of mine. To have his experience and have him explain some things to me, that's a big favor. He couldn't speak any higher than what he was saying about LA."

Though he won't immediately be besieged as he is in Europe, he has been gaining attention in the United States since the movie, "Bend It Like Beckham."

"I came to L.A. about four years ago, and I was walking around and I got a few people coming up to me and recognizing me," Beckham said. "But then I went back about a year ago, and when I looked out the window in the house I was staying in and there were forty-five paparazzi cars outside.

"I realize I'm not as recognized in the U.S. as I am around Europe, around other parts of the world. But hopefully, playing for the Galaxy will change that."

His mandate calls for raising the profile of an average team in a soccer league that has little respect overseas and less recognition than the University of Southern California football team.

On Friday, Beckham returned to his daily routine training with Real Madrid for nearly two hours. The British player smiled to reporters upon his arrival and left the training ground in the outskirts of Madrid before his global news conference.

In Los Angeles, the Beckham effect was felt immediately: The Galaxy sold 1,000 new season tickets Thursday morning. Their season begins April 8.

The team averages 22,000 to 24,000 fans in its 27,000-seat stadium in suburban Carson, although attendance was down last season when the Galaxy missed the playoffs.

"They know we Latinos are filling the soccer stadiums. That's why they want to bring stars here," said Juan Munguia, a 30-year-old Mexican hotel cook. "I will go just to see Beckham."

Already in the works is a 2008 Galaxy tour of Asia, where Beckham is wildly popular. A new team logo will be unveiled this summer and the Galaxy's owner is nearing a deal to slap a prime sponsor's name on its jerseys.

"We will absolutely market the Galaxy as a global brand," Leiweke said.

Beckham will become the biggest star to play U.S. professional soccer since Pele and Franz Beckenbauer were in the now-defunct North American Soccer League in the 1970s.

"David Beckham is a global sports icon who will transcend the sport of soccer in America," gushed Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber.

But Beckham hasn't won a major trophy since joining the Spanish team Real Madrid in 2003 from Manchester United, where he won six league titles, two FA Cups and the Champions League title.

Beckham started only five of 25 matches for Real Madrid this season. He turned down a two-year contract extension from Real Madrid, where his fading skills left him on the bench.

Last Aug. 11, the former England captain was dropped from his national team altogether, signaling the end of his international career.

It came after a dismal 2006 World Cup. He led England to the quarterfinals last summer, scoring from a free kick in the second round to beat Ecuador 1-0. But he was taken off the field early in the second half against Portugal with ankle and Achilles tendon injuries, and then watched as his team was eliminated in a penalty shootout.

A day after the game, Beckham stepped down as captain of the team -- a post he had held for 58 of his 94 international appearances.

But he'll start for the Galaxy.

"He's coming here to make a difference," Galaxy coach Frank Yallop said. "He's not coming here on vacation."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.