Reality check: Madrid say Beckham can't play

The man behind his big US deal is celebrating. But England's most famous footballer has been banned by his own club
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The Independent Football

The talk so far has been of his multimillion-pound pay deal, expensive mansions and a future of high living with his A-list friends. Yesterday David Beckham was brought back to earth with a bump.

He may be on the brink of his longed-for US transfer, but Real Madrid announced publicly that he faces the rest of the season without a single top-flight game. Real's coach Fabio Capello declared that Beckham had played his last game for Europe's richest club. "A player who has such an important contract with another club, we cannot count on him. He is not going to play any more," said Capello.

But Simon Oliveira, Beckham's representative, told PA Sport: "As far as David is aware, he has a contract for the remainder of the season and remains dedicated to the club and its supporters."

As the dust settles on one of the biggest deals in sporting history, Beckham won't be the only one congratulating himself on the move to Los Angeles, said to bring the player up to £1m a week. Simon Fuller, head of 19 Management, was the mastermind for the LA move and will pocket a considerable sum himself.

Last night Mr Fuller's associate Julian Henry said there had only ever been one destination for the Beckhams. "Knowing the Americans' enthusiasm for heroic sporting talent like David, there is limitless potential for a couple like the Beckhams," said Mr Henry.

Mr Fuller took over "Brand Beckham" three years ago. An insider said: "David realised that the management company he was with at the time, SFX, couldn't get him the international sponsorship that Fuller could. He told Simon he wanted to move to a bigger level. This LA deal is all part of that."

Insiders say the move has been planned for a long time. Beckham said on Friday that he had asked Tom Cruise for advice. "He's a very wise man - he's a very good friend of mine. He explained some things to me to be prepared for."

Valuation expert Brand Finance believes the move is an exceptionally shrewd for all concerned. James Park, senior consultant at the company, said: " Victoria may try to reposition herself in the US. For conservative middle America, the happy family package is a major selling point."

Her ambitions are said to include a cameo film appearance. One friend told a newspaper yesterday: "She is convinced that with Tom Cruise's help she is somehow going to get her first film role, that she is going to get her own fashion show and it's all going to happen straight away."

Public relations expert Max Clifford believes David Beckham has a huge challenge ahead of him. "Beckham is not a star in America and neither is football. In order to make an impact he is going to have to look elsewhere, like TV - but then we have the problem of his voice," he says.

On Thursday, LA Galaxy fans had barely heard of David Beckham. But thanks to press coverage, fans have been seen buying new shirts.

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Simon Fuller

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