London: David Beckham’s love affair with Manchester United could be over by the end of this week after the club confirmed they had opened talks with potential buyers.
Beckham, a lifelong United supporter who signed for the club as a 14-year-old schoolboy, has repeatedly insisted he does not want to leave Old Trafford.
But in a statement released on Saturday, the English champions made it clear they had decided to try and cash in on their most marketable asset.
“Manchester United can confirm today that clubs from Italy and Spain have expressed a firm interest in signing David Beckham,” the statement said.
“David’s advisers, SFX, have also been approached by clubs independently and we are in regular and close contact with them regarding the status of those discussions, which are ongoing.
“David has been kept informed while on holiday.”
Saturday’s statement follows months of speculation over Beckham’s future with Barcelona, Real Madrid and European champions AC Milan, all reportedly interested in signing the England captain for a fee in the region of £30 million.
Barcelona’s interest has been the most public after Joan Laporta, a candidate to become president of the Catalan giants, said he would sign Beckham if he wins the election on June 15.
Barcelona, however, are hampered by the fact that their dismal domestic campaign this season means they will not even be in the Uefa Cup next season, far less the Champions League.
Real formally denied making an approach for Beckham in April. But speculation about their intentions have been revived this week and there have been reports they could be prepared to hand over Luis Figo as part of the deal.
Although Figo would be regarded by most football experts as a more valuable asset than Beckham on the field, he cannot compete with the Englishman’s status as a global icon.
Milan have the advantage of knowing that, on a personal level, Beckham is more attracted by a move to Italy than to Spain.
But any deal with Milan would be complicated by Beckham’s personal contract with United’s major sponsor, Vodafone.