The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Real statement could be a coded message for Beckham
- speculation continues...

Real Madrid took the unusual step of releasing an official statement Tuesday to deny that any transfer negotiations had yet taken place with David Beckham — but, in the surreal world of the European champions, that might yet prove a coded indication to the Manchester United player that he has to make the next move.

The missive from Real Madrid appeared on the club’s website, just as a similar statement denying any involvement with the Brazilian striker Ronaldo had appeared in August — three days before he signed for them.

The five points laid out by Real Madrid prove one thing categorically: that they are determined to do business according to the guidelines laid out by Fifa and will not be making any illegal approaches to the England captain, who is under contract for the next two seasons to United.

The process of “tapping up” a player — or making an informal approach without the permission of the player’s club — is considered beneath European football’s most successful side who will not make contact with an individual before he makes it publicly evident that he wants to move to the Bernebau.

The statement was billed as an “official communication” from Real Madrid that was aimed at dispelling the “supposed interest” that the club had in signing the player which had “appeared in the media.”

The first point read: “There has been no contact between Real Madrid and Manchester United about this subject.” The second said: “There has been no contact, either direct or indirect between Real Madrid and Mr Beckham.”

The club then went on to say that they had no intention “despite the speculation” of “negotiating the signing of Mr Beckham.”

The fourth point said: “Contrary to the usual policy of this club we would never use an official communication like this to deny transfer rumours. This release has been issued with the objective of putting an end to the growing speculation which has circulated without any foundation linking Mr Beckham with Real Madrid.”

In the fifth and last point, Real Madrid said that there still existed a good relationship between the European champions and United and that the club had “respect for Mr Beckham.”

Yet the notion that it is rare for Real Madrid to dismiss transfer speculation with carefully-worded official statements simply does not stand up when their recent history of deal-making is examined in detail.

Not only did Real Madrid issue a statement about Ronaldo, but they signed a “non-aggression pact” with Inter Milan this summer — a deal that promised not to poach any of the Italian team’s stars if, in turn, the Serie A side agreed to the same guidelines.

When Real Madrid muscled in to take the then-unsettled Arsenal striker Nicolas Anelka in August 1999 for a record £22.9 million they issued an even more strongly denied statement suggesting they had not even heard of the player.

And when Juventus found themselves relieved of the services of the French World Cup-winner Zinedine Zidane by Real Madrid for £47 million last summer the Italians had also received a statement rather similar to the one issued about Beckham.

Up until now the only comment Beckham has made on the prospect of joining the European champions was during a press conference at Heathrow airport last month before the England team travelled to Liechtenstein for their Euro 2004 qualifier.

“Real Madrid have great players and a great tradition,” he said. “Any player would be honoured to be involved or spoken about by Real Madrid. Of course I am honoured.”

If the England captain was to ask his club for a transfer request he would be likely to jeopardise some of the payments built into the £90,000 a week contract.

There have also been reports that any move to Real Madrid would involve the England captain taking a pay cut, or a least sacrificing 50 per cent of his private commercial earnings to the club. However, if the England captain is serious about joining the European champions, then last night’s statement serves as a warning that he will have to make a public announcement soon.

The player’s wife Victoria is currently in America where she hopes to launch a successful singing and acting career and where the couple have also given a high-profile television interview to the show 20/20.

United are set to tour America in July and August for a series of four sell-out matches.

Beckham’s presence on that tour with his United teammates would also be of immense help to his wife’s profile in America and, should he choose to go ahead with it, could potentially delay any proposed transfer deals.

It was not without a slight touch of irony that the sober statement from Real Madrid which appeared on the website at around 6pm was bordered, for some time, by a Pepsi advertisement — featuring David Beckham.

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