Del Bosque to stay at Real and settle in Beckham

Vicente Del Bosque will remain as Real Madrid's coach next season and oversee the progress of the England captain, David Beckham, in his first season at the Bernabeu.

The veteran Spaniard has been told he has earned a one-year deal at Real - who can clinch their domestic title tomorrow - despite rumours that he would be leaving the club.

Arsenal's Arsène Wenger and even the England coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, had been linked with the post, but an announcement on Del Bosque's future is imminent. Wenger was courted by Real, but is apparently standing by the north Londoners despite the financial problems that have restricted his transfer movements to a frustratingly low level.

Del Bosque took Real to Champions' League success when he became coach and though his star-studded side missed out on the trophy this season they are on the verge of triumph at home, provided they can beat Athletic Bilbao at home on the final day of the Spanish season tomorrow. A 29th league title for Real would go a long way towards ensuring there are no recriminations over the timing of Beckham's transfer announcement.

Real have a two-point lead over Real Sociedad, who are at home to Atletico Madrid tomorrow evening. A Real draw or defeat would hand the championship to Sociedad - provided they win - because of the latter's better head-to-head record.

More rumours of discontent among Real players surfaced yesterday, several of whom were reportedly unhappy at the timing of Beckham's signing as they were preparing for tomorrow's title decider.

"It's difficult but we have to remember there's an awful lot at stake on Sunday," the Real defender Michel Salgado said from the club's training ground. "We need to be thinking about the game against Bilbao and nothing else. It wasn't the perfect moment to announce the signing of Beckham."

Sociedad were on course for a third league title, and their first since 1982, until last week's 3-2 defeat by Celta Vigo.

"It's not over yet," the Sociedad midfielder Xabi Alonso reminded Real Madrid this week. "It's true it's not in our hands any more but we're confident Bilbao can get something at the Bernabeu. They need to win as well to make the Uefa Cup."

The only other side with something to play for on the final weekend are seventh-placed Barcelona, who are two points behind Bilbao in the race for the final Uefa Cup place. Barcelona need to win at home against Celta Vigo, and hope Bilbao manage no better than a draw at the Bernabeu, to move up to sixth.

Barcelona's new president, Joan Laporta, missed out on signing Beckham partly because the club are not in the Champions' League next season. His hopes of signing a player of similar stature will suffer a huge setback if Barcelona are forced to play in the Intertoto Cup over the close season in an attempt to reach the Uefa Cup by the only available route.

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