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Beckham signs '$250M' L.A. deal

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LONDON, England -- Former England captain David Beckham will leave Real Madrid at the end of the season and sign a record $1 million-a-week five-year deal for MLS side Los Angeles Galaxy.

"This week Real Madrid asked me to make a decision regarding my future and the offer to extend my contract for a further two seasons," Beckham told Reuters.

"After discussing several options with my family and my advisors to either stay here in Madrid or join other major British and teams I have decided to join L.A. Galaxy and play in the MLS from August this year."

The Galaxy, citing industry experts, said the L.A. deal is worth more than $250 million (128 million pounds) in salary and commercial endorsements -- about $1 million a week -- and is "thought to be the biggest in sporting history."

The news ends months of speculation about the future of the 31-year-old midfielder whose contract with Real expires at the end of the season.

"I would like to thank supporters and the people of Madrid who have made my family and I so welcome in my time here making this an extremely difficult decision to make," added Beckham.

"I have enjoyed my time here enormously and I am extremely grateful to the club for giving me an opportunity to play for such a great team and their amazing fans."

In a televised interview provided by LA Galaxy, Beckham added: "Another challenge has come up and it is the right time for us to do it.

"I didn't want to go out there at 34 years old and for people to turn around and say he's only going there to get the money. It's not what I'm going out there to do.

"I'm going to hopefully build a club and a team that has a lot of potential. I think that is what excites me."

No regrets

"Regrets? No. I have never had any regrets throughout my life and career and I never want to.

"To play with the players I have played with, to play with Zidane was the biggest honor I have had in my career, to play with the likes of Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos you know, for me, there is no regrets there."

Real Madrid confirmed that Beckham would not renew his contract with the club.

"After a meeting this morning at the Bernabeu between the club and David Beckham's agents both parties decided that David would not extend his present contract with the club which ends on June 30, 2007," Real said on their Web site

The 31-year-old, who joined Real from Manchester United in June 2003, is the most famous player to sign up for Major League Soccer since it began in 1996.

He is also the biggest name player to move to club soccer in the U.S. since the likes of Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff played in the long-defunct North American Soccer League (NASL) in the 1970s and early eighties.

Having been first choice in the Real Madrid starting lineup since he moved to Spain, Beckham lost his place following the arrival of Italian coach Fabio Capello.

He has only started five of Real's 16 league games this season and was known to be frustrated with his lack of opportunities in the first team.

LA Galaxy had made public their interest in Beckham who runs a football academy that shares its home with the team and who has close links to the Anschutz Entertainment Group who own the club.

"David Beckham coming to MLS might be viewed by some as one of the most important moments for soccer in this coutry and perhaps the history of professional sport," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement.

"David trancends the sport and is a cultural icon. David is clearly one of the most recognisable athletes in the world. People are going to feel really good about David Beckham spending the rest of his career in the U.S."


The former Manchester United player said he was now inspired by the challenge of cracking the American soccer market.

"I am proud to have played for two of the biggest clubs in football and I look forward to the new challenge of growing the world's most popular game in a country that is as passionate about its sport as my own.

But he insisted he would be giving his all for Real Madrid until the end of the season to try and win the major trophy that has eluded him since he joined the club in 2003.

"For the rest of this season I will continue to give 100 percent to my coach, team mates and fans and I believe Fabio Capello will bring this club and its supporters the success they truly deserve."

Beckham, who has a number of business interests in California and a thriving soccer school, has reportedly been stalling on a new two-year deal from Real because of his lack of first team opportunities.

Off the field, Beckham's profile and commercial appeal shows no sign of waning, but on the pitch the past year has seen the 31-year-old suffer a series of disappointments, culminating in England's exit to Portugal in the quarterfinals of the World Cup.

Beckham announced he was standing down as England captain after the defeat and has been left out of recent squads by new manager Steve McClaren.

It is a far cry from his glory days at Manchester United where he won four English Premier League titles and the Champions League as they memorably won the treble in 1999.

But his relationship with manager Alex Ferguson soured during 2003 and he joined Real to much fanfare.

Superstars Victoria and David should have no trouble slotting in with the L.A. set.


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