The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Ronaldo & Co. fear coming under prying eyes
- Real stars had escaped ‘pink press’ so far

Until the announcement of David Beckham’s imminent arrival, life in Madrid was pretty bearable for the Madridistas. Beckham’s new teammates, including the reigning World Footballer of the Year Ronaldo, could fall out of one of the city’s night clubs at 4 am without causing a stir. Now they fear all that has changed.

It is a paradox of Spanish society, which bought the world Hello! magazine and created the Z-list celebrity, that up until now the Real Madrid stars escaped relatively unscathed from the voracious “pink press”.

One Real player cited the example of Ronaldo. His name seldom makes it on to the front pages. Fame in Spain is done on a contractual basis — those who want it get it.

And so, people are asking, will la familia Beckham, and the inevitable entourage of Her Majesty’s press, contribute or detract from a city that holds a deeply contradictory view of fame'

What Madrid will offer Beckham is a form of hell-temperature paradise. Beckham’s £100,000 a week (after tax) will go far despite the post-euro conversion price hike and a rocketing property market. He will be able to buy a villa-style house in one of Madrid’s luxury suburbs, such as La Moraleja or Pozuelo.

All are built with swimming pools and secluded from the prying masses and both areas look out on to Madrid’s serried mountains.

The fact is that Barcelona might have been much more to the Beckhams’ tastes. Whereas Madrid is comfortable with itself and unpretentious, in Barcelona the suave Catalans have tended to emulate the trends of Paris and London.

Madrid is dry, hot and landlocked and some complain it only has the Prado Museum and its Old Quarter. But what it lacks in architectural merits it makes up for in atmosphere. Lunches are long and the night goes on until 6 am.

Madrid is rudimentary — a hairy pig’s ear for lunch is preferable to a bowl of gnocchi. But if they can enjoy Madrid, as many celebrities quietly do, the Beckhams will find a bustling, noisy city that does not spend much time moralising. But Madrid may give him a different welcome to the one he is accustomed to. Although Spain’s 24-hour sports radio stations jabbered ceaselessly about the transfer, the people and players of Madrid appeared to be largely underwhelmed.

A typically measured Madrileno response was: “Yes, he is very handsome, but can he play football' I think we have done Manchester a favour. The sports newspaper AS summed up many Real fans’ feelings when they asked if Beckham will be able to prove that he is “more than fashion”.

The El Pais website ran a poll: “Does Madrid need Beckham'”. More than 70 per cent said no, 23 said yes. El Mundo asked: “Is he a good signing'” Sixty per cent said yes, 40 per cent no. Raul del Pozo, an El Mundo columnist wrote “He is the only player that smells of cologne after 90 minutes.”

Casillas, Real’s goalkeeper said before Beckham’s signing: “Beckham is more marketing than football.”

Real’s executives are rubbing their hands. Their fans want to see if there is more to the name.

Email This Page