The David Beckham saga finally drew to a close last night when the England captain agreed a move to Spain but to Real Madrid, not Barcelona.
As Beckham flew out to the Far East with his wife Victoria for a promotional tour, Manchester United and Real thrashed out a straight cash deal worth £25m, and the only potential sticking point was the £8m due to the England captain for the rest of his contract. United wanted £30m for the 28-year-old, but are prepared to let him go for lower if Beckham waives his golden handshake.
Beckham will sign a four-year deal worth £16.8m. Real said they plan to present the player to the crowd at the Bernabeu Stadium on 2 July.
"I know I will always regret it in later life if I had turned down the chance to play for another great club like Real Madrid," Beckham said last night. His United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, said: "It's been a pleasure to see him grow into the player he has become."
United agreed to talk with Real after it became obvious Beckham was not keen on moving to Barcelona.Joan Laporta won the club's presidential election on a ticket of bringing him to Catalonia. But the alternative is a long dispute with the manager Sir Alex Ferguson which, given the Scotsman's legendary stubbornness, could only yield one winner.
Yesterday, Mr Laporta denied he "promised" anything, and gave the player until the end of the week to make a statement more positive than his objection last week to being "a pawn" in Barcelona elections.
Sources at Real yesterday indicated that part of the reason for their rush was to be able to capitalise on any promotional opportunities as Beckham travels in the football-mad Far East. They believe that they may recoup as much as half of the transfer fee by smart marketing.