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Beckham – a football or finance move? - 30/06/2003

   David Beckham
   Manchester United

Much has been made about David Beckham’s move to Madrid, and as the dust settles, it shows what a massive gulf is appearing between the really big clubs and the those that make up the lower leagues. Looking at the squad that Beckham joins, I really can’t see him playing a week-in, week-out role in the team. One of Real’s strengths is their midfield with competition most intense in this area – just ask Steve McManaman! However, whereas the ex-Liverpool winger seems relatively happy to figure on the periphery of the team, I can’t see Beckham settling for anything other than a regular starting place. It’ll be interesting to see his reaction if his name isn’t on the team sheet.

As for Madrid, the transfer is not just about Beckham as a player. As a club their profile in the lucrative Far Eastern market isn’t that of Man Utd. In buying Beckham, they are buying into a rich merchandising and revenue-earning sector. I dare say they’ve had the calculator out and the deal makes sense. As for Man Utd, the old adage that a player is never as big as the club appears to be the case. However they seem to have scored an own goal with the manner in which the transfer was arranged. Some supporters have been upset with the board, and I dare say a number of their players may have been surprised at the way Beckham was seemingly pushed away from Old Trafford.

I don’t know what the money situation is, but it’ll be a world away from the situation faced by players in our Nationwide leagues. I can’t tell you who the player is, but his present contract is worth £4,000 a week. The club has approached him about re-negotiating his deal – and have also placed him on the transfer list. Another club has come in for him and offered a deal of just £500 per week – and that’s just one example of how football has changed!! Look at it from the player’s perspective…he’ll have a family and (hefty) mortgage to pay, and he’s faced with the prospect of picking up 1/8th of his present deal. OK, players have had it very good for years, but anyone taking a pay cut of this size will struggle.

This also has an impact on the Premiership clubs, and looking at Newcastle, do you think that Robbie Elliott, Jamie McClen, and Clarence Acuna etc etc are going to give up their contracts and move to clubs where they’re likely to be offered a fraction of what they’re presently earning? In addition to wages, the club also have to pay National Insurance contributions and PAYE payments – it’s expensive. This leaves the club having to either keep paying players who haven’t recently figured in the team or paying them off. But even if they pay up say 80% of the contract, that still leaves another club having to come in and pick up 20% of a salary that may work out at £10,000 a week – and many can’t afford £2,000 a week even if they’re getting players who’ll do a very good job for them.

An alternative is to offer the more senior players additional roles. Take Robbie for example, he’s got the experience of playing at the top level and he’s totally switched on. He’s educating himself in sports science and although he hasn’t told me himself, I’ve been assured that he’s a good chance of graduating with a first class degree – and that’s some achievement!! He’s the sort of lad who’ll gladly take on extra responsibilities at the club and they’d be certain of gaining a committed and excellent fitness coach. He’d be a great understudy to Paul Winsper and with the first team, two reserve sides and the academy squads to look after – he’d have plenty of players to work with. With Peter Beardsley moving to a PR role and Kenny Wharton looking after the reserve team, there must a couple of vacancies – Robbie could look after the fitness conditioning and contribute to the football coaching. It seems logical to me as everyone benefits and there’ll be no further cost to the club.

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