Becks faces loyalty test

United set to offer him new deal minus pay rise

LONDON: Manchester United are set to put David Beckham’s professed loyalty to the test by offering him a new contract without a pay rise. 

The England captain, who earlier this week moved to dispel speculation that he was on his way to Real Madrid, has two years of his current deal to run. 

But, according to newspaper reports yesterday, he will be offered a new contract this summer that will keep him at Old Trafford into his 30s. 

Crucially, however, there will be no significant increase on Beckham’s current wages, which are reported to be around £95,000 (US$152,000) a week, including his cut of the money earned by the club through Beckham-based marketing. 

United’s chief executive Peter Kenyon has made no explicit statement about Beckham, the highest-paid player at United, but did recently outline the case for a general cap on wages. 

“There are absolute ceilings and I think in terms of wages we have reached it,” Kenyon said. 

Real are reportedly ready to offer Beckham a pay rise in the region of 20 percent if he agrees to move to Madrid. 

If Beckham takes that as the basis for negotiations with his current employers, United could be tempted to sell this summer to ensure they get the maximum possible transfer fee rather than risk Beckham being able to move for free when he becomes a free agent in 2005. 

Beckham, now 28, said on Tuesday that he would not trigger a transfer away from Old Trafford. 

“My feelings for Manchester United, the club itself, the players, the fans and the backroom staff, are as strong as ever,” he said. “There’s been lots of stuff in the media about me and my future, but I can honestly say that there has been no contact between either me or my adviser, with Real Madrid, or any other club.” 

United skipper Roy Keane, meanwhile, has urged United boss Sir Alex Ferguson to strengthen the squad this summer. 

“It is good to hear the manager talking about wanting to do well in Europe and wanting to improve the squad,” Keane said. 

“You can’t afford to stand still in football. You have to think ahead and we were one or two players short against Real Madrid (in the Champions League quarter-final). 

“If you go back to the years when Liverpool were dominant, they bought top players every summer no matter what they had won. It is important to keep building because it keeps the players on their toes.” 

Ironically, Keane is one of the players who could find himself struggling to retain his place if Ferguson decides to bring in a new midfield enforcer as cover for his 31-year-old captain. 

Claude Makelele, who could be part of any deal in which Beckham goes to Real, and even Arsenal skipper Patrick Vieira have both been touted as potential long-term replacements for Keane. 

More realistically, United’s shopping list is believed to be topped by Brazil’s World Cup hero Ronaldinho, currently unsettled at PSG. 

Sporting Lisbon forward Ricardo Quaresma is also widely seen as a target while Ferguson needs a replacement for injury-prone goalkeeper Fabien Barthez. – AFP 

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