Beckham finally ready for the real deal

England skipper David Beckham said here on Sunday he was about to start talks about new contract with Real Madrid.

“I haven’t talked to the president [Florentino Perez] but I hope to in about two weeks,” said the world’s richest and most high profile football player at a press

conference.

“I like playing in Madrid and Spain. I live in this city and although we haven’t yet talked about renewing my contract, after the Champions League matches against Arsenal we will talk,” added Beckham.

Beckham’s current contract runs until the summer of 2007 and most pundits are expecting him to negotiate a two year extension which would take him through to 2009, by which time he would be 34.

The player and his advisors were expecting to sit down with Perez last autumn but the behind-the scenes turmoil, which saw the departures of coach Wanderley Luxemburgo and sports director Arrigo Sacchi, lead to the talks being postponed to a more opportune time.

“Each day I feel better. At this moment I am very happy in Madrid, it’s the best time in my career and I want to continue improving.

“There are issues to consider but my personal life is fine, the team is doing well and I’m happy with the coach. Everything is coming together,” said Beckham.

Life hasn’t always been so rosy for Beckham after leaving Manchester United and arriving in the Spanish capital in the summer of 2003.

He has still not won any major honour with Real, his only silverware being the relatively insignificant Spanish Super Cup just a few weeks after he made his move to Real.

Allegations, mainly made by British tabloid newspapers, about his private life have dogged him during the last three years and there have been several altercations with paparrazzi photographers.

His form has also fluctuated, although since the start of the year and the arrival of Juan Ramon Lopez Caro at the helm, he has been playing some of the best football of his career.

“Lopez Caro has given us confidence,” said Beckham, paying tribute to the fifth coach he has played under in his three seasons at Real, a turnover he admits he has sometimes found unsettling and perplexing.

The question now is, how much would a new deal be worth to Beckham.

Various estimates put his current annual earnings at around 25-million euros but only roughly a quarter comes from his Real wages.

Real sources have told Agence France-Presse that speculation in British newpapers that the club will be prepared to double his basic salary are very wide of the mark.

However, the area of contention when Beckham starts to discuss a new deal with Perez could be over the player’s image rights.

Real currently hold onto half of the money from the sponsorship deals that Beckham has signed since he joined the club but his commercial value to Madrid has been conservatively estimated by various financial publications at around 70-million euros a year.

With Real doing so well out of having Beckham on its books, the player is expected to want a bigger slice of the cash cake. - Sapa-AFP

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