David Beckham will join Arsenal if his loan deal to Tottenham Hotspur is not completed within the next few days – but only to train.
The current expectation is that Spurs chairman Daniel Levy will agree a deal with Los Angeles Galaxy within the next few days and that Beckham will be at White Hart Lane tomorrow.
Harry Redknapp said yesterday that a deal was imminent and the likelihood is that Beckham will join Spurs. However, he has a provisional agreement with Arsène Wenger that he can train with the Arsenal squad at London Colney in Hertfordshire, as he did in January 2008, should the Spurs deal collapse.
That seemed unlikely yesterday although Redknapp has changed his mind over the merits of taking Beckham on loan so many times over the last week that there is still a chance it may not happen. Levy is understood to be doubtful of the benefits of having Beckham as a player in Spurs' team, currently fourth in the Premier League and in the Champions League knockout stages, but most people at the club recognise it could a good PR coup.
Beckham is expected to be in the stands for tomorrow's FA Cup third-round home game against Charlton Athletic, whether or not the deal has been done. Spurs do not anticipate being asked to cover all of the 35-year-old's wages but they will pay an upfront fee that will compensate Galaxy for a proportion of Beckham's salary with additional fees related to the appearances he makes.
Redknapp said that he had been told by the club secretary Darren Eales that the deal was close and that it was "a case of sorting out the length of the loan and one or two bits and pieces". He added: "I don't think it is financial at all, certainly not from David's point of view. There wouldn't be any big financial implications in the deal either way.
"The thing is he [Beckham] is not a fool. He is a clever boy. As he has got older he has become worldly and smarter. Do you think he would come here with a fantastic reputation, all that wealth and make himself a fool? Why would he ruin his whole reputation by coming here for a few weeks for people to say, 'He's finished, he's gone?' He's not stupid. He knows his body, he knows what he can still do, otherwise he wouldn't be coming.
"He wants to play football. Most players would sit around thinking: 'That's OK. I've got eight weeks now to sit around the pool. Go and have a game of golf, or whatever.' But he wants to play. That's probably why he's had such a great career."
Redknapp admitted he has not seen Beckham play recently other than TV highlights of LA Galaxy games. Ideally, he said that Beckham would make better use of Peter Crouch, whose strength in the air is under-exploited by Spurs
"I'm sure he realises people will be looking at him. He doesn't expect to play all the time. He knows he's got to come and get in the team. It's going to be hard to shift Aaron Lennon, but he can give me something else. If I decide to go with five in midfield he could come and tuck inside one. He can get hold of the ball, keep the ball for you when you're under pressure. He can play. I think he'll be a good influence on the other lads.
"He will be fit. Have you ever seen him looking fat? He's got no reason to put himself on offer. He's not a punch-drunk heavyweight champion coming back who's washed up, skint and comes and has another fight and gets knocked out. This is a boy who's in, not the prime of his football life, but in the prime of life.
"It's a no-brainer. We can't lose for eight weeks. What could we lose? If he struggles to get fit and just trains, it's not a problem. But if he gives us something like I think he can, it will be great for us."
Redknapp admitted that Spurs have been looking at Ajax's Luis Suarez. "He's a good player but we haven't made any offers for him," he said. "I would doubt very much that anything will happen there. I've watched him loads of times; he's not an out-and-out striker but he could play anywhere."
One player on the verge of exiting Tottenham yesterday was David Bentley, who has agreed a loan move to Birmingham City for the rest of the season. "He [Bentley] will go on loan because he wants to play," Redknapp said.After turning down a transfer to Birmingham, Robbie Keane has been told that he will only be able to leave the club on a permanent deal – not a loan, as West Ham have requested. Jonathan Woodgate – wanted by Leeds United and QPR – will also be allowed to go on loan.