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Beckham's Real Madrid days appear over

Coach says soccer star won't play again for Spanish team, possibly clearing the way for him to join Galaxy sooner.

January 14, 2007|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

David Beckham's playing career at Real Madrid apparently came to a sudden and abrupt end Saturday when Coach Fabio Capello said the former England captain would never again play for the nine-time European champions.

Capello's edict means that the Galaxy could move to buy out the remaining five-plus months on Beckham's contract and bring him to the U.S. in time for the start of the Major League Soccer season April 7 instead of in midsummer as originally planned.

The chance to get in the neighborhood of $5 million for Beckham now -- the figure represents a percentage of his $11.3-million salary -- as opposed to nothing at all when he becomes a free agent on July 1 might have prompted Real Madrid's stance.

"Beckham will train with the team but he won't play," Capello said at a news conference in Madrid. "The player's decision to go to Los Angeles on such a big contract means we cannot count on him. You can't have the same enthusiasm when your mind is on other things."

Calling Beckham "a great professional," Capello, who has employed Beckham only sparingly since taking over as Real's coach last fall, said Beckham's rejection of a two-year contract extension offered by Real Madrid was not his fault.

"The fact that he wanted to go was up to him, not to me," Capello said.

On Thursday, AEG, which operates the Galaxy as well as the Chicago Fire and Houston Dynamo of MLS, announced that Beckham had signed a five-year contract that could earn him as much as $250 million in salary and endorsement income.

Victoria Beckham, the former Spice Girl and Beckham's wife, arrived Saturday in Los Angeles. She did not answer questions from the media.

The 32-year-old singer will be looking for a family residence and a school for the couple's children, said one of David Beckham's spokesmen, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss details of the trip.

Alexi Lalas, the Galaxy's president and general manager, was traveling back to Los Angeles from Florida on Saturday and was unavailable. The league deferred any response to AEG officials, who could not be reached for comment.

Capello, meanwhile, said Beckham's choice -- whether to stay and train at Real Madrid until his contract expires or leave early -- "is his decision, not the club's."

Simon Oliveira, Beckham's spokesman, said Capello had not told the player of his intentions.

"As far as David is aware, he has a contract for the remainder of the season and he remains dedicated to the club and the supporters," Oliveira told Reuters.

"David is surprised at the quotes from Capello because no one from the club has informed him of this intention. He will continue to give his full commitment in a professional manner to the club."

It appears that Beckham's fellow "galactico," Ronaldo of Brazil, also could be leaving Real Madrid soon, with MLS still a possible destination.

The New York Red Bulls had been linked to Ronaldo last year, but little has been heard since. In the last week, both Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia and Juventus of Italy have said they are interested in signing Ronaldo. Al Ittihad had made a $25.8-million offer.

Capello no longer regards the 2002 World Cup-winning striker and three-time FIFA world player of the year as a first-team player in Madrid.

"Negotiations are taking place," said Ramon Calderon, Real Madrid's president.

Beckham and Ronaldo both were left off Real's roster for its Spanish league game today against Real Zaragoza.

*

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

grahame.jones@latimes.com

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