Beckham will stay at Real, 'Sven or no Sven'

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The Independent Online

David Beckham says he will still be playing for Real Madrid next season, regardless of who the club appoint as coach, and even if he wins the World Cup with England this summer and has the chance to move home and bask in the glory.

The England captain was asked, ahead of tomorrow's El Clasico against Barcelona, if Real's choice of new coach (Beckham's sixth in three seasons) would affect his impending contract negotiations. And if, in particular, he would be more likely to sign an extension if Sven Goran Eriksson was Real's final choice.

"I want to sort my contract out whether he [Eriksson] comes or whether he doesn't ... whoever comes," Beckham said. "Only if the club said they didn't want me would things change. And they have not said that. They are very keen on getting these talks under way.

"We will sit down maybe in the next few weeks. If it happens before the World Cup then great, if it doesn't then it will get sorted afterwards. I won't go into the tournament worried about my future."

Asked if he would look for a move back to England if he lifts the World Cup on 9 July in Berlin he was more emphatic, replying: "No, because I love playing for Real Madrid. If it happened it would be amazing and I would enjoy celebrating it. But I am happy here and I don't want to move my family about any more. The kids are happy and my wife is happy. We've just got a new house there is no reason to go anywhere."

Beckham is set to play against Barcelona on Saturday as the coach, Juan Ramon Lopez Caro, is expected to name an unchanged side for the first time in nine games. The England captain was a victim of Caro's tinkering two weeks ago when he was dropped for a home game against Real Betis.

"When the manager first came in he said that he would make changes to the team and he has done that," Beckham said. "Sometimes it is good for the players and sometimes it is not so good."

Asked how he felt when he was dropped for a home game for the first time since he joined he said: "I was injured after the Arsenal game and missed the next match. But leading up to the Betis game I trained five days so there wasn't a problem. I was fit. He didn't talk personally to me, he just told us the team before the game and that was it."

Real are 11 points behind Barça going into tomorrow's fixture and Beckham believes pride more than anything will be at stake. "Our pride was hurt when they came to the Bernabeu and beat us the way they did [3-0] earlier in the season so it's about us getting three points and playing well."

Although Real have been accused of buying players for their commercial potential rather than their sporting ability, according to a new study Beckham is not the most valuable player in the world. That honour goes to his Barcelona rival Ronaldinho.

The consultancy firm, BBDO Germany, estimated the Brazilian's brand value at £33m followed by Beckham at £31m and Wayne Rooney at £30.5m.

* The weekend's La Liga matches were thrown into doubt last night with the referees threatening to strike over outstanding pay for February and March. A deadline of today has been set to resolve the issue.

Beckham glitters off the pitch to head rich list

He may have spent the last three years failing to win a trophy with Real Madrid, but off the pitch, it has been a fruitful period for David Beckham.

With a salary reported to be worth £4.6m and endorsements that add up to a hefty £13.8m, the England captain banked £18.4m last year, according to the latest issue of Forbes, the American business magazine famous for its rich lists.

Beckham, whose endorsements include deals with Adidas, Gillette, Marks & Spencer, Pepsi, Snickers, TBC Cosmetics and - until recently - Vodafone, easily outstripped his Real Madrid team-mate Ronaldo, the Brazilian pocketing just over £13m in 2005.

In the issue of Forbes due out on 17 April, Michael Stirling, founder of the agency Global Sponsors, says that the current market for salaries is depressed slightly due to the imminence of the World Cup.

"The stars of the next four years will be born there," he says. "The old guard is coming of age, and corporations are waiting for the new wave of big stars to be revealed before signing some of the older players to more multi-million dollar deals."

Beckham is probably safe for a few years yet, however.

Football's 10 biggest earners

1 David Beckham (Real Madrid) £18.4m

2 Ronaldo (Real Madrid) £13.2m

3 Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid) £10.9m

4 Ronaldinho (Barcelona) £8m

5 Francesco Totti (Roma) £7.7m

6 Michael Owen (Newcastle) £7.4m

7 Frank Lampard (Chelsea) £7.2m

8 Oliver Kahn (B Munich) £6.3m

9= Raul (Real Madrid) £6m

9= Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus) £6m

Chris Maume

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