Hyundai A-League clubs are eyeing a possible 10-game guest stint for David Beckham as an opportunity to sell a longer term package to the LA Galaxy star.
Speculation has been rife this week that Beckham could be on his way to Australia following his announcement that he will quit Galaxy in December, and a number of A-League clubs have made their interest known with the player’s representatives.
Although there has been some scepticism at clubs willingness to offer large sums of money to sign the 37-year-old on a short-term contract, the A-League CEOs instead see the guest player option as a chance to showcase Australian football, which could lead to a longer deal, following the likes of Alessandro Del Piero and Emile Heskey.
Perth Glory, Melbourne heart and Central Coast Mariners are the only clubs to have confirmed they are interested in signing the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star.
Adelaide United have pulled out of the race, admitting they couldn’t afford the reported $2 million fee, while Western Sydney Wanderers have remained quiet on speculation the new club might be tempted to throw their hat in the ring.
Glory CEO Paul Kelly told footballaustralia.com.au they aren’t accepting rumours that Sydney or Melbourne are the only realistic destinations, and said Perth were ready to sell themselves on Perth offering a point of difference to what Beckham has seen before.
“We’re playing a line based more on lifestyle,” Kelly said. “We think money’s not a huge issue.
“I’m a little bit disappointed with the media saying he would go to Sydney or Melbourne while I’m on record saying why wouldn’t he come to Perth? Perth is a beautiful city, it’s a great place to live, Gabriel Batistuta lived here for two years and still has a house here, Ben Elton lives here, some of the world’s richest people live here.
“We want to put Perth forward as a place to live, but more importantly we want to put Perth Glory forward as a footballing club.
“Now the TV deal is done and we’ve got an enhanced relationship with FFA and the A-League, there’s more money coming into the game to offset any losses and clubs should be striving to become stable and sustainable for the future.
“Perth Glory is in that position and now you can start thinking about marquee players bringing names in. We made a decision 18 months ago to cut costs and bring staffing down as part of a long-term strategy, and this club could break even next year, which we’ve never done.
“He (Beckham) doesn’t know Australia, he hasn’t played here – a 10-game stint creates the appetite for him to possibly remain here and we wouldn’t hesitate at offering him and extended contract.
“Ten games allows him to come and have a look at the A-League, to look at Perth or wherever he goes and then make a decision from there. The A-League has come on in leaps and bounds – who’d have thought Del Piero would come here 12 months ago? Look at the attendances, the TV deal – the soccer world is looking at Australia.”
Kelly’s reasoning was backed up by Sydney FC CEO Tony Pignata. With the club still searching for a new coach, the Sky Blues have understandably not entered the race for Beckham but Pignata said a guest stint was a good place to start.
“It could be short term this year but after he plays his last game for LA Galaxy he’s a free agent so who’s to say another team in the A-League can’t sign him up on a longer term deal?” Pignata said.
“That can be done, same as Del Piero. It’s short term now because most clubs rosters are set up but long term, I reckon it could be a possibility as well.”
Of the other clubs interested, Melbourne Heart CEO Scott Munn has already admitted his club have tabled an offer for Beckham but have declined to comment further.
Another possibility appears to be Central Coast Mariners, somewhat surprisingly given the club’s previous stance on marquee players. But coach Graham Arnold said earlier this week that Beckham’s lack of ego would make him an ideal fit for his team, and director of football Lawrie McKinna told footballaustralia.com.au that he believes the Gosford club has plenty to offer.
“There is no reason why we cannot compete with other Hyundai A-League clubs in signing David Beckham,” McKinna said.
“We have shown over the years that we can compete on the field with the major teams in the competition, and we feel we can make a positive bid for him to come to the Central Coast.
Central Coast Mariners are a community club and with the support of our councils, as well as the State and Federal governments, we will be able to put a competitive offer to David and his family to come to the Coast.
We owe it to our fans and sponsors to show that we can compete with the so-called big clubs of the A-League in bidding for the signature of David Beckham.
And we hope Beckham and his family will opt for the lifestyle we can offer on the Coast, as well as the opportunity to be part of what is a very successful Mariners team.”
Although Beckham has denied any knowledge of a possible switch to Australia, Beckham’s representatives have contacted a number of football bodies around the world to pave the way for the star’s next move when his time with Galaxy come to an end.
The intense speculation has sent the Australian football media into a frenzy, with many journalists remaining sceptical of any potential deal. But what is real is the A-League clubs determination to show themselves as interesting challenges for one of the superstars of the game as he nears retirement.