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How big is David Beckham in Asia?

From CNN Correspondent Andrew Brown

Beckham’s hairstyle has become an
Beckham’s hairstyle has become an "inspiration" for many Asian fans.

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HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- How big is David Beckham in Asia?

So big he was treated like a rock star at the World Cup finals in Korea and Japan.

Big enough that countless fans copy his hairstyle.

As big as a 3-meter high chocolate statue displayed in a Tokyo department store.

But as British soccer superstar David Beckham limbers up for his possible new club, sponsors and marketing gurus are analyzing the financial impact of his transfer.

In Asia, where Manchester United football club has an estimated 16 million supporters, about a third of soccer fans root for a player rather than the player's club, according to the branding consultancy FutureBrand.

Spanish media recently reported that Beckham is more likely to move to Real Madrid, not to Barcelona, after Beckham's agent refused to meet Barcelona's presidential candidate Joan Laporta, who made a conditional offer to Manchester United for the £30 million player ($50 million). (Full story)

So, when Beckham is traded, will young fans follow the man, or stick with Manchester United?

Beckham owes much of his success in Asia to sponsors like Vodafone who have used his image to promote the company's interests in Japan.

The footballer also lent his name to "Bend it like Beckham," a movie about an Indian girl following in the footsteps of her Premier league idol.

Analysts say Beckham is seen as an extension of British and American pop culture in Asia, and that gives him edge over other soccer players from continental Europe.

"Anglo-American culture has an edge because of the easy accessibility of Anglo-American culture," media analyst Peter Schloss said.

"German culture, Italian, yes, you have some accessibility in terms of fashion, in terms of food, but you don't have the pervasiveness that you do when you are looking at Anglo-American culture."

Beckham didn't orchestrate the publicity stunts in Asia, but fans are mesmerized by his magic.

Earlier this year, when Beckham was nursing a facial injury, U.K.-based Madame Tussauds temporarily disfigured the wax model in the firm's Hong Kong museum.

"We give him a bit of a black eye but we did it in a nice way with a bit of a get well card next to him to say 'look, we feel sorry for you'," Edward Fuller from Madame Tussauds said.

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