MADRID: England captain David Beckham was formally introduced yesterday as a Real Madrid player, adding the world’s most marketable football star to an already glittering line-up.
With TV cameras beaming the ceremony live around the world, team president Florentino Perez unveiled his fourth multi-million dollar man in as many years and hailed Beckham as one of the best English football players of all times.
“David, welcome to the league of dreams,” Perez told the former Manchester United star.
Beckham, 28, opened a brief speech by thanking team officials in Spanish – “gracias”, he said with a smile, then added: “Football is everything to me and joining Real Madrid is a dream come true.”
Beckham wore a powder blue suit, open white shirt and a pair of earrings. His wife Victoria, the former Posh in the Spice Girls pop group, sat in the front row.
More than 500 journalists from 25 countries were on hand to cover the event at Real Madrid’s basketball arena, the Raimundo Saporta Pavilion.
The photogenic midfielder received a white Real Madrid jersey – bearing his name and the number 23 – from honorary president Alfredo di Stefano, an illustrious Real Madrid hero from the 1950s.
Beckham later donned a white Real kit and kicked a ball around a bit on a practice field. Hundreds of fans cheered as they sat under a hot sun.
Showing off his skill, Beckham kicked a beautifully flighted ball over a fence and into the crowd. Fans chanted “guapo, guapo”, meaning handsome, and the star’s name.
At another point a shirtless boy ran up to Beckham and greeted him. Beckham was quickly supplied with a No. 23 jersey and put it on the youth. Journalists scrambled to interview the boy.
The actual unveiling ceremony unfolded on a stage featuring a giant close-up photo of Beckham’s face, his last name and that of his new employer.
Perez noted that Beckham is a cultural icon and trendsetter with devoted followers all over the planet, a man described as casting a “global spell”.
“That may be true,” Perez said. “But what is really true is that Real Madrid signed David Beckham because he is a great football player, a great professional whose dedication and spirit of sacrifice, whose team spirit and simplicity are recognised by all who have dealt with him.
“For us he is one of the best English football players of all times. For that reason and none other Beckham is here with us today.”
“He comes from the theatre of dreams,” Perez added, using the nickname of Manchester United’s Old Trafford Stadium, “and arrives with the team of his dreams”.
Beckham, transferred last week from Manchester United for 35 million euros, is the latest of a string of big-money recruits to join the nine-times European Cup champions and 29-times champions of the Spanish league.
He will play alongside other Perez's acquisitions such as Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo. – AP