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Beckham outlines reasons for move

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MADRID, Spain -- Former England captain David Beckham says he is joining the Los Angeles Galaxy from Real Madrid at the end of the season for "football" not stardom.

Speaking to his new employers, team-mates and the world's media via satellite link from Madrid, Beckham, 31, revealed: "I'm coming here to play football.

"I'm not coming to the States to make soccer the biggest sport in America but I do think soccer has a huge, huge potential. I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't believe in this project. This could create something that we've all never seen before.

"I'm not coming to be a superstar," Beckham added. "I'm coming there to be part of the team, to work hard and to hopefully win things.

"This team has a lot of potential and the thought of being part of it really excites me."

Beckham, and wife Victoria, can already boast some of hollywood's biggest names among their circle of friends -- and the midfielder admitted he had already sought the advise of an A-lister before agreeing the move.

"I was on the phone to Tom Cruise for about an hour last night and an hour the night before. Obviously I asked him for his advice because he is a very wise man and a very good friend of mine. It's going to be a big help for us to have friends when we arrive in Los Angeles."

Those who orchestrated the deal are convinced Beckham will not only raise the sport's profile in America but help the Galaxy win the Major League Soccer (MLS) title.

"David is still a very good player," said Tim Leiweke of AEG, the sports and entertainment company that runs the Galaxy. "Peyton Manning in American football, Allen Iverson in basketball and Tiger Woods in golf are all the same age as Beckham.

"Certainly, he will bring an audience, a fan base and an intensity to our sport that we've never had."

The Galaxy did not say exactly what they'll pay him, but floated a figure of $250 million in salary and commercial endorsements over the length of his contract.

Those figures would make Beckham the second-highest paid sporting figure in the world behind Woods.

Beckham decided to turn down a extended two-year deal with Real Madrid after limited first team appearances under new coach Fabio Capello this season.

Ironically, with his departure making headlines around the world, Beckham is set to be given a rare start by Real on Sunday.

Jose Maria "Guti" Gutierrez is out for the next week after twisting an ankle early in the 2-0 loss to Deportivo La Coruna last Sunday and Beckham is the midfielder's natural replacement for a match against Real Zaragoza.

Real have lost three of their last four games Primera Liga games to fall five points behind leaders Sevilla and arch-rivals Barcelona.

Ferguson reaction

Beckham's former manager at Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson, said on Friday that his move had come as no surprise to him.

"I anticipated that," said Ferguson. "I expected him to go to America. We wish him well. It's a big career change to go from playing for Real Madrid to playing in America.

"I don't think there was any chance of him coming back to England having played for us. I think deep down he was always a United fan and I don't think there was any chance of him coming back to another English club."

Beckham, who joined Real from Manchester United in June 2003, is the most famous player to sign up for the MLS 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 in the 1970s and early eighties.

Having been first choice in the Real Madrid starting line-up since he moved to Spain, Beckham lost his place following the arrival of Capello.

The 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 country and perhaps the history of professional sport," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement.

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

Beckham 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."

Off the field, Beckham's profile and commercial appeal shows no sign of waning, but on the pitch the past year has seen him 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 Ferguson soured during 2003 and he joined Real to much fanfare.

Beckham is inspired by the challenge of cracking the American soccer market.


Can David Beckham's move make North America's soccer league, the MLS, a significant force in world football?
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