Press Watch: Beckham is on his way to Barcelona, Real Madrid or Milan - or may be staying at Old Trafford

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The Independent Football

Manchester United's admission that clubs from Italy and Spain "have expressed a firm interest in signing David Beckham" has done little to clarify the future of the England captain. With Beckham dominating the back pages yesterday, there are as many versions of events as there are Sunday newspapers.

While the Sunday Express still appears to have Barcelona in pole position - "He can be our new Maradona" - the Mail on Sunday reckons he could join Real Madrid more or less out of spite, while the News of the World claims Milan have been in secret negotiations to sign him for two months.

The Mail's report says he will collect a personal windfall of £10m in return for selling Real his image rights, but his reported displeasure at the complaints about his lifestyle leaking from Old Trafford also comes into the picture - if he goes to Madrid he would scupper United's apparent wish to seal a £30m cash deal with Barcelona.

But the News of the World believes Milan have made a good impression on Beckham and wife Victoria with the dignified manner of their approach, compared with the boastful claims of Barcelona's presidential candidate Joan Laporta, and suggests Silvio Berlusconi's power to create a television career for Victoria could be an influencing factor, as well as Champions' League football. Milan, it is mooted, could also tempt United by offering the striker Andrei Shevchenko in part-exchange.

The People says that bidding will begin at £33m and insists United are adamant Beckham will not play for them again, which contrasts with the Sunday Mirror's singular stance that Beckham has no desire to play abroad and would prefer to stay.

The Mail complicates the plot by linking both Barcelona and Milan with the United target Harry Kewell, revealing that either club might be willing to offer the Australian £1.5m to stay at Leeds United for another year and move on a Bosman in 2004, rather than go to Old Trafford now. The People, however, says United are ready with an opening bid of £5.75m for Kewell, even though another story in the same pages reckons Leeds want £8m.

The People further suggests that Leeds have had no interest in goalkeeper Paul Robinson, whom they supposedly need to sell to finance Peter Reid's planned move for Sheffield United's Michael Brown, even though the Mail reports that Aston Villa's ex-Leeds manager David O'Leary is prepared to pay £5m.

The idea that the Brazilian striker Ronaldinho is certain to join United is challenged by the Mirror's claim that Newcastle are prepared to offer Laurent Robert plus £3m. The Mirror also reckons Internazionale are still on the trail of Ryan Giggs with £8m plus Hernan Crespo. The Mirror endorses the Sunday Express's story that Inter so want to land Robert Pires from Arsenal that they will offer cash plus any player for the Frenchman.

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