Why £25m for David Beckham plc could be a Real steal

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The Independent Football

The words of Jorge Valdano, Real Madrid's sporting director, would have been like shards of ice in the heart of anyone who still believed in sport's Corinthian principles. "These days, football clubs are marketing brands, not teams," he said. "It is no longer a case of doing well on the pitch; the more merchandise you sell, the better."

As evidenced by the rapturous reception David Beckham received on his arrival in Japan yesterday, Madrid have just bought the biggest brand in football and they appear to have cut themselves an astonishingly good deal. When in April David Beckham's transfer was first mooted, sources at Old Trafford put his value at £40m. Real have secured his services for £25m - substantially less than the £46m they shelled out for the French captain, Zinedine Zidane - and Manchester United will not receive that as a lump sum.

A payment of £7m is dependent on Real reaching the quarter-finals of the European Cup in each of the four years of Beckham's contract while United will receive the remainder of the fee in £5m instalments.

The England captain will not have benefited financially from his decision to choose Real Madrid over Barcelona. The Catalan club had a £30m bid accepted by Manchester United and were prepared to pay him £8m a year while Real Madrid have insisted he will be on the same salary scale as their other leading stars Raul and Zidane, who take €6m a year (£4.2m) to their villas in the hills around Madrid. It is slightly less than his Old Trafford salary and while he demanded a payment of £1.3m from the English champions for the rights to use his image in advertising, he will have to split the earnings from all future contracts evenly with Real.

Like virtually every big club in Europe apart from United, Real are heavily in debt and require a world-class central defender far more urgently than they do another attacking midfielder. But nobody in world football sells shirts and merchandise like Beckham, especially in the Far East. His promotional tour is sponsored by Castrol, which has paid £500,000 a year to use his image in the Pacific Rim after a marketing survey in Thailand suggested eight out of 10 people would be more likely to use its products if Beckham told them to do so.

Barcelona's president, Joan Laporta, estimated Beckham would bring in £10m to £18m of additional revenue annually to his club and that may have been a conservative estimate. According to Chris Britcher, the editor of Sportbusiness.com, the deal had been superbly engineered. "Tony Stephens, Beckham's agent at SFX, had a 10-year plan for David Beckham and that was laid out in 1994. Since then, he has become a regular at Manchester United, captain of England and a global brand. I can imagine that somewhere along the line the plan involved a move to a glamorous foreign club.

"If you talk of sporting brands, then Tiger Woods is ahead of him because he revolutionised golf and network television coverage slumps when he does not do well. Beckham is a slightly different case but he is still an exceptionally powerful marketing tool."

SFX, whose other clients include Alan Shearer and Michael Owen, can expect to be well rewarded for its part in the transfer. The agency Elite, which employs Jason Ferguson, son of the Manchester United manager, Sir Alex, made £1.2m from the sale of the defender Jaap Stam to Lazio for £16.5m two years ago. United then threatened legal action for Lazio's failure to pay its instalments and this time have insisted on guarantees from Real.

Mr Britcher did not think Manchester United would suffer unduly from the loss of Beckham, although a third of those who support the club in Asia are estimated to do so solely because of the number 7.

VICTORIA BECKHAM THE COMPETITION

Britain's biggest celebrity couple face serious competition in Madrid. At the world's most glamorous football club, the A-list couple come as standard. Models, dancers, television presenters vie for attention in the Spanish glossy magazines and on the billboards. Some have even appeared in Hello! together. The question for the Beckhams must be: is the city big enough for all of them?

ALEXANDRA PINHEIRO
Husband: Roberto Carlos (Left back)
Unlike some stellar football couples we know, this pair generally shun the limelight, even though Roberto Carlos is one of the club's most valuable marketing assets. Alexandra and Roberto met in Brazil, and she prefers a quiet life at home with their two daughters, Roberta and Giovanna, and their adopted son.

MAMEN SANCHEZ
Partner: Raul (Striker)
Mamen, 23, is the queen-bee of the team players' wives. The pair are the golden couple of Spain, said to rival even King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia as national idols. A former A-list model who regularly featured on the front of Spanish glossies, Mrs Sanchez is considered to be the driving force in the marriage.

HELENE SWEDIN
Partner: Luis Figo (Attacking midfielder)
The glamorous Swede has been a catwalk model since the age of 16 and reportedly met Figo at a Joaquin Cortes concert. The pair married on the Algarve after a five-year romance. She has modelled for the Elite agency and remains a fixture on the pages of the country's fashion magazines.

VICTORIA McMANAMAN
Husband: Steve McManaman (Midfielder)
Victoria, 27, born in Liverpool, is a barrister who lectures in law at Madrid University and the Law Society. Unlike Posh and Becks, the couple, who married in Palma Cathedral last year, avoid publicity. Mrs McManaman is reportedly looking forward to showing Mrs Beckham local sights.

VERONICA
Husband: Zinedine Zidane (Midfielder)
He departed from Real Madrid tradition by not marrying a model. He met his wife, Veronica, 32, a former dancer, 15 years ago in Paris. Veronica, who was born to immigrant parents in abject poverty, is Spanish and was believed to have been instrumental in his move to Real Madrid.

MILENE DOMINGUES
Husband: Ronaldo (Striker)
Milene, 23, is an ex-model who holds the women's record for keepy-uppies (juggling a football without letting it hit the ground). She probably won't see much of Posh though, as she plays football for Fiamma Monza in Milan and is on the verge of divorcing Ronaldo because they "see life in different ways."

By Arifa Akbar

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