David Beckham's chances of joining Milan have been put on hold - because of the England captain's sponsorship deal with a mobile phone company.
Last week's European Cup winners had been looking into the idea of signing Beckham from Manchester United for £30m, but found they were running into the wrong numbers when it came to taking the player out of his mobile phone contract. Now Milan have pulled out of the move for the United winger because it would cost millions to disconnect him from Vodafone, who are also, coincidentally, United's shirt sponsors at Old Trafford.
The Italian club are backed by Telecom Italia Mobile, the mobile unit of Italy's former telecommunications monopoly, and the German firm Siemens, and those firms do not want Beckham wearing their colours. There were even efforts to find out how to get him to end his mobile phone contract.
However, Beckham has been picked out by Vodafone for a major television campaign and it would cost them a fortune to drop one of the world's most recognisable faces from the campaign. Beckham would be at risk of a hefty bill of his own if he severed his links with Vodafone before the deal expires.
Disappointed Milan officials admitted to the snag last night and the club's vice-president Adriano Galliani said: "Beckham is a player that certainly intrigues us but there is a major stumbling block in his other contracts. The problem is that Beckham has a two-year contract with Vodafone. They represent competition for our club sponsors and therefore the two deals cannot co-exist."
Galliani, who effectively runs Milan on behalf of the club's owner, the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, added: "We couldn't even buy him out of that personal contract as the figures are far too high."
Beckham - whose appeal to England fans to behave themselves was televised last night - will have no such problems if Barcelona do make a definite move. The Spanish side do not have a shirt sponsor and most of their money comes from their legions of fans. The only potential clash of interests there is that Barca are sponsored by Nike, while Beckham is with adidas - but that kind of clash of brands is quite common in football.
Beckham's United team-mate Wes Brown will have to wait for more than a month to have major knee surgery, meaning that his comeback is now on hold until next year.
Brown's knee is still swollen from the ruptured cruciate ligament injury he picked up in the last game of the Premiership season against Everton, and the England defender has been sent on holiday for a few weeks by United before the surgery, which is booked in for the middle of July. His recovery could take up to five months.
On United's official website, Sir Alex Ferguson said wants to bring Real Sociedad's young playmaker Xabi Alonso to Old Trafford, though he acknowledged that he faces stiff competition. The 21-year-old has been outstanding this season, and Ferguson said: "Alonso's contract runs until 2007. We have been told there is a £20m buy-out clause, but we understand that Madrid have offered a down payment of £10m and that they are prepared to let him stay at Sociedad next season."Reuse content