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Beckham on Move?

Manchester United says it has deal to sell him to Barcelona, but midfielder has rejected it.

June 11, 2003|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

Manchester United said Tuesday that it had reached an agreement to sell midfielder David Beckham to Barcelona for a reported $49.5 million, but there is every indication that the deal will not be completed.

Beckham himself has rejected it, and his agents have criticized United for ignoring the player's wishes and for treating him like "a political pawn" in the Spanish soccer club's presidential elections.

Beckham, 28, told The Times last week that he had no desire to leave Manchester United, which he joined as a teenager in 1991.

While Beckham and his family have been on vacation in the United States, however, Manchester United has been in discussions with clubs in Italy and Spain, most notably Barcelona.

Six candidates are running for the presidency of Catalan club in Sunday's election, and one of them, Joan Laporta, has promised to sign Beckham if he wins. On Tuesday, Manchester United issued a statement saying it had reached an agreement with Laporta.

"Manchester United confirm that club officials have met Joan Laporta, the leading candidate for the presidency of Barcelona," the statement read. "These meetings have resulted in an offer being made for the transfer of David Beckham to Barcelona.

"This offer is subject to a number of conditions and critically to both Mr. Laporta being elected president on Sunday 15 June and Barcelona subsequently reaching agreement with David Beckham on his personal contract.

"Manchester United confirm that in the event that all of the conditions are fulfilled, then the offer would be acceptable."

After conferring with Beckham, the English national team captain's London-based agent group, SFX, issued a statement of its own, rejecting the proposed move.

"David is very disappointed and surprised to learn of this statement and feels that he has been used as a political pawn in the Barcelona presidential elections," SFX said. "David's advisors have no plans to meet Mr. Laporta or his representatives."

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported that Laporta's offer was for $49.5 million now and an additional $16.5 million, depending on Barcelona's future success.

Beckham has been linked to a number of other top European clubs, but the Barcelona trade is the least appealing to him because the Spanish club will not be playing in the European Champions League next season and might not qualify for the UEFA Cup.

That might be what Manchester United has in mind, selling him to a team that cannot hurt its Champions League aspirations.

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Times wire services contributed to this report.

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