Real say Beckham will stay in Madrid

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The Independent Football

Real Madrid's director of football, Jorge Valdano, said yesterday that he was confident that David Beckham will remain at the Bernabeu next season.

Real Madrid's director of football, Jorge Valdano, said yesterday that he was confident that David Beckham will remain at the Bernabeu next season.

Speculation has been rife over the England captain's future in recent weeks, with Chelsea and Arsenal linked with a move for the former Manchester United midfielder. However, Valdano is reported to have met Beckham at a funeral last week and he said: "Nothing has changed. I have spoken to him and he is calm."

That view is backed up by comments from Beckham's personal assistant, Terry Byrne, who said: "Unless Real want to sell him, he's staying. The truth is, we don't know where the stories about him leaving are coming from, but it's not us. Real told me they don't want to sell him.

"The situation remains the same because we always said we would review the situation after two years and he hasn't even finished his first season. He's happy in Madrid and he's staying. Obviously we have talked about what would happen if he came home but there are only a few clubs he could go to. We will sit down with Real at the end of the season and discuss his future, but the bottom line is that David loves playing for Real Madrid."

Even if Beckham does return, his destination is unlikely to be Highbury. The Arsenal vice-chairman, David Dein, said the club could not afford Beckham, even if they wanted to sign him.

"All this speculation is going around," he said. "Somebody ought to ask Real Madrid what they want to do. They hold his registration, they paid £25m a year ago for him. Do they really want to sell him or not? They hold the key. Arsenal cannot afford him at the numbers we are hearing, that is for sure."

Beckham's performances in the second half of the season have not matched his pre-Christmas form, and on Saturday night the Real coach Carlos Queiroz replaced him - to his apparent anger - on the hour with the Argentinian midfielder Santiago Solari in the 2-0 defeat by Deportivo La Coruña.

Queiroz attributed the defeat to having a player sent off for a third successive game, and a lack of fortune in front of goal. Zinedine Zidane received a red card just before the break, when he picked up a second booking for a pointless foul on Djalminha, and Deportivo took advantage to secure the win with a thundering free-kick from Joan Capdevila after the break.

"It is very unusual to have to play with 10 men for a third game in a row and especially difficult against a side of the quality of Deportivo," said Queiroz, Alex Ferguson's former assistant at Manchester United. Real dominated for much of the game, but the home side had taken the lead against the run of play when striker Diego Tristan shot home after Real's goalkeeper, Iker Casillas, parried the ball into his path on the half hour.

"We had the vast majority of the chances," said Queiroz. "We could even have won with 10 players, but we just didn't have any luck in front of goal. The league isn't over yet and you can be sure we will be fighting until the very last minute, but obviously it is going to more difficult for us from now on."

With three games left Real trailed Valencia by a point at the head of the standings before their rivals had a chance to extend their lead to four points when they entertained Real Betis late last night.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Atletico Madrid renewed their bid for a place in the Uefa Cup with a 3-2 win over struggling Celta Vigo.