£34m for Beckham too much to refuse

Manchester United unable to resist staggering offer from Spain to secure signing of England captain
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The Independent Football

Forget the friction between Sir Alex Ferguson and David Beckham, the issue for the Manchester United's manager is much more basic - money. The offer for Beckham from Joan Laporta, the wannabe Barcelona president, is at least £6m more than first thought - a guaranteed £30m up front, with a further £3.7m in bonuses.

The staggering size of the fee, revealed by insiders in the transfer, is the prime reason for United considering selling a 28-year-old who could leave as a free agent in two years' time. However, Beckham's advisers will be looking for a severance payment, possibly £8m, to cover the remainder of his contract. He is on about £80,000-per-week plus image-rights payments of a further £20,000-per-week plus.

Beckham could turn down the transfer, but, if he does move on now, to Barcelona or possibly Real Madrid or Milan, the bid is stunning at a time when transfer fees are supposed to be being reined in. With £30m to fund transfer spending this summer, Ferguson would havea flying start on his domestic rivals.

Since announcing his ambitious plans, Laporta has surged up the opinion polls on voting intentions of Barcelona's 94,000 electorate. From being an outsider on a few per cent, he is now among the leading contenders with support above 25 per cent.

He is handling his campaign like a seasoned politician, providing plenty of impressive promises and hoping the voters believe there really will be jam tomorrow. Barcelona are in something of a jam today, on and off the pitch, with debts mounting and the team struggling to secure a place even in the Uefa Cup for next season.

Off the field, Barcelona are about £73m in debt by conservative estimates, so Laporta's pledge to invest a net amount of about £40m in Beckham and four other players to restore the club's status among the élite in Europe has not impressed his rivals in the presidential race.

But, according to Ferran Soriano, the finance advisor in Laporta's campaign team: "Bringing in one world-class player such as Beckham would bring in additional income of between €61m (£45m) and €99m (£70m) over four years." Some of this would come from merchandising, but Beckham is only too well aware of his marketable value. Hence the disputes with United over image rights before he agreed his current contract.