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MLS sets deadline on Beckham issue

February 12, 2009|Grahame L. Jones

COLUMBUS, OHIO — On the same day that David Beckham tied a decades-old record by playing in his 108th game for England, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber on Wednesday said he wanted Beckham's future resolved by Friday or he would not approve any transfer between the Galaxy and AC Milan.

Garber also confirmed that Beckham has a clause in his five-year contract with MLS and the Galaxy that would allow the English midfielder to leave at the end of the 2009 season.

Speaking at a World Cup function in Columbus, Garber said that he had sent a letter to AEG, which owns the Galaxy, telling it to resolve the situation within 72 hours.

"If David believes that he wants to continue his career in Milan and Milan wants to purchase him, we're interested in accommodating that request," Garber said. "But right now it just continues to go round in circles and it needs to come to a conclusion by Friday.

"There's no reason why this should drag on. They either want to do it or they don't want to do it."

The Galaxy loaned Beckham to Milan for two months, ostensibly so that he could remain fit and in the running for an England national team place during the long MLS off-season.

Since then, he has played in six games and performed well enough for Milan to say it wants to keep him and for Beckham to say he wants to stay with Italy's Serie A club.

On Wednesday, Beckham played the second half of England's 2-0 loss to European champion Spain in a friendly in Seville, Spain, thereby tying Bobby Moore, England's 1966 World Cup-winning captain, in appearances.

"To be with Bobby Moore is something very special," Beckham said. Speaking of the Galaxy-AC Milan situation, he said, "Everyone wants it sorted out as quickly as possible."

According to AC Milan officials, there is no need to rush any decision. They believe they have until the end of the loan period, March 9, to make a move.

"They don't have until March 9," Garber said. "They need approval from us on a transfer. That's our timetable, not Milan's timetable. So if Milan believes they have until March 9, then I'm basically correcting that assumption.

"They have until this Friday. On this Friday, we need to know whether they want to buy David Beckham or not. I'm upset that this process continues to drag on."

Money is the issue. The league, the Galaxy and AEG are believed to be seeking more than the MLS-record $10 million that the league received last year for U.S. forward Jozy Altidore.

According to journalists covering AC Milan, the club is willing to offer only $5 million and perhaps a couple of games in the U.S.

Garber indicated that a satisfactory financial settlement could soften the blow of MLS losing Beckham.

"If Milan purchases David's contract for a sum that is a record in MLS and recognizes the value that he has to the league and the contribution that he would continue to make for the league, then I'm not so sure it's a negative," he said. "Ultimately, it depends how it's resolved."

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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