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The end of the affair?

David Beckham's Major League Soccer marriage appears dangerously close to unravelling into bitter divorce.

With non-committal comments from the player, angry accusations from Los Angeles Galaxy and amorous advances from AC Milan seemingly spelling doom for the much-vaunted $125m man, the question is how much will the break-up cost?

Well, not quite as much as you may think, with reports in the UK suggesting that Milan could sign Beckham for as little as £4.5m.

To understand the valuation we must again dispel the headline-baiting figure which Beckham's management team, 19 Entertainment, used to great effect when announcing his move from Real Madrid to LA in 2007.

The widely reported $125m was never his basic salary, rather it was an Enron-esque figure based largely on possible future earnings from sponsorship deals over a five year period.

A fee of £4.5m may not be much when compared to the marketing men's blue sky number, but given that the player will be 34 in May, coupled with his largely disappointing impact on MLS and the fact that he could leave Galaxy for free in October thanks to a break clause in his five year contract, £4.5m is actually a good deal for the US club. Particularly when one considers the inevitable angry backlash from Galaxy fans who could be forgiven for feeling more than a little betrayed by Beckham's eyelid fluttering in Italy.

It doesn't take a code breaker to read between the lines of Beckham's latest comments to see that what he's really saying to Milan is: ''I'm yours, come and get me." After scoring in the 4-1 win over Bologna, Beckham said: "I can't say what will happen, even if my contract says that I'll be here until March. We'll have to see."

An angry reaction from Galaxy fans would be entirely understandable, after all Beckham appears to have said one thing and done another; and angry fans are hardly likely to be lining the streets to buy the latest line of Beckham-branded Galaxy paraphernalia.

While sponsorship, marketing and merchandising all play an undeniable role here, for Beckham the ultimate consideration is sporting.

He chose to move to the MLS believing his England career was over and decided to accept a new challenge, that of a footballing evangelist.

Now, 18 months on from his MLS debut, the possibility of playing in the 2010 World Cup is a very real possibility and having discovered that he is still able to compete in Serie A it would be understandable if his thoughts are turning away from the MLS Cup and towards the Scudetto.

However, if Beckham does leave the MLS behind there will an undeniable sense of unfinished business. Don't rule out a return.

It shouldn't have come as a surprise to those behind the Hero Global Football Fund to learn that the Premier League were not keen on any of their 20 clubs dealing with the investment vehicle.

With the Premier League still smarting from the scandal surrounding the third party ownership of Carlos Tevez they were hardly likely to endorse the Hero Fund which by acquiring the economic rights of promising young players from Africa, South America and the Far East hopes to profit by selling them on.

After learning of the fund, which is backed by a Dubai-based bank and registered as an offshore unit trust in Jersey, the Premier League said: ''We have been in contact with the Hero Fund to ascertain the nature of their business model and concluded from the information provided that this would be in breach of Rules L.34 and L.35 concerning third-party investment.

''As such we have written to all our member clubs to draw this matter to their attention. We have also made FIFA aware of our current position.''

Accentuating the positives a fund insider told the Daily Mail: ''The Premier League are not in a position to stop us operating everywhere else in the world. We are utterly transparent about what we are doing and have raised a lot of money in the most difficult of times.''

Despite the fund's insistence otherwise, the Premier League's ruling is a setback. With TV pundit and former Liverpool star Alan Hansen and former FA executive David Davies lined up as advisors it is clear the fund hoped to target the Premier League.

Nevertheless, if you fancy a piece of the action and have a spare $100,000 (the minimum individual investment) burning a hole in your pocket you can get yourself involved in the Hero Fund, which is targeting a 10% return on investment - just don't expect it to come from the Premier League.

With Swiss-based private equity partnership Falcon Equity restating their interest in buying Chelsea from Roman Abramovich and the club adamantly refuting claims that the Russian billionaire is keen on selling up, why not hypothesise on what would constitute a tempting offer?

German newspaper Bild suggest that suggested that Falcon are preparing an offer of 770m Euros (£721m), but is that enough?

Abramovich spent £140m when he bought the club in 2003 and since then, depending which reports you believe, has invested between £500m and £600m. With that investment owed to him in loans that means a possible offer of £721m would leave him with, at worst, a £19m shortfall or, at best, a profit of £81m.

For a man used to dealing in figures with nine zeros a hypothetical profit of less than a £100m would surely not be enough to entice Abramovich into a deal.

On the other hand, with the global economic downturn having wiped a reported £3bn off his £11bn fortune perhaps getting more than his money back could prove too good a deal to turn down.


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