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Beckham prefers Milan over MLS
by Ridge Mahoney, February 5th, 2009 7AM
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[MLS] There's about a month to go until David Beckham is due back from his loan spell at AC Milan, and he continues to publicly declare his preference to stay where he is. "I have expressed my desire now to stay in Milan and hopefully the clubs can come to some agreement," he said to Reuters news service Wednesday after playing for Milan in a friendly with Glasgow Rangers.

"I expected to enjoy it, but I didn't expect to enjoy it this much and play in every game like I have," Beckham added. "I have said that my intentions are to stay here. Now it is out of my hands so I have to wait and see."

He is registered to play with Milan until the end of June, so theoretically the loan could be extended. He could then return to the Galaxy with four months left in the season, after which, as per a clause in his contract, he can leave MLS.

Not clear, however, is if in his contract is a buy-out clause, which would require a payment to MLS for the remaining portion of his contract or some kind of settlement, or an opt-out provision that would enable him to walk away unencumbered. Also not clear is just how binding and restrictive are the related sponsorship, revenue-sharing, and marketing deals signed by Anschutz Entertainment Group and MLS/SUM with Beckham as the centerpiece, or at least an attractive component.

In an e-mail, his advisor and agent, Simon Oliveira, said simply, "In all honesty, I would rather not get into the details of David's contract. He's an LA Galaxy player and is set to return on March 9th.

"We have never discussed buying David out of his contract or terminating it before the end."

There's no contradiction here: Oliveira and Beckham might not be discussing it among themselves, but it's unlikely the subject hasn't come up at the AEG and MLS offices, since quotes and statements from AC Milan officials appear on a regular basis.

Any three-year marketing or sponsorship deal would lose much of its value with Beckham not playing for the Galaxy in that third year. To what extent AEG and MLS/SUM might be on the hook is hard to calculate. Repaying portions of fees or negotiating make-good deals could be pricey.

They are pressing ahead with the Pan-Pacific Championship, which will be played later this month at Home Depot Center by the Galaxy and teams from China, Japan, and Australia. MLS commissioner Don Garber expressed disappointment at the PPC crowds in Hawaii a year ago; how well will a Galaxy team without Beckham and Landon Donovan draw against unfamiliar opposition in mid-February? And there's been only stony silence from Galaxy offices about 2009 season-ticket sales.

If Beckham can walk away free and clear at the end of the MLS season, AEG might prefer to sell now - assuming AC Milan is willing to pay a transfer fee rather than agree to a longer loan - and get whatever it can in return for its considerable investment. Milan is reportedly paying about $1 million to Beckham during the duration of the loan, and by buying him can also secure his long-term playing rights.

On March 8, when he is due back in the U.S., the regular-season opener will be only 11 days away. There are myriad storylines league and team officials would rather be in the news than the latest on David Beckham, but that's the backlash of celebrity. It cuts both ways.

 



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