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What's the real Beckham deadline?
by Ridge Mahoney, February 16th, 2009 7AM



[MLS] On the day AC Milan's hopes of winning the Serie A title suffered a serious blow, the hopes of David Beckham staying with the Italian club rather than return to MLS took a another new twist.

Beckham started on Sunday in the Milanese derby against league leader Inter, but he came off with an injured hamstring in the 56th minute of a 2-1 defeat that left Milan 11 points back of its archrival. Two days earlier, a hastily-imposed deadline that AC Milan reach an agreement with Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), operator-investor of the Los Angeles Galaxy, passed without the two sides reaching an agreement, prompting MLS and AEG officials to declare the matter closed.

The Italian team, however, has consistently expressed its views that the March 9 date on which the loan is due to expire is the real deadline.

"We've still got 20 days to close the deal," Coach Carlo Ancelotti told the ANSA news agency Saturday. "Galaxy has forced the situation, but there's time before March 9."

Beckham showed some signs of fatigue against Inter, having played 45 minutes last Wednesday in England's 2-0 loss to European champion Spain in Sevile. The hamstring injury is the second time in his seven Milan matches he's suffered an injury, though a slight groin strain didn't prevent him from playing in the subsequent league match and being called up by England manager Fabio Capello.

"I've said I want to stay here and if I do go back then it will be a bit difficult but we'll have to wait and see what happens," Beckham told reporters after the derby defeat.  "I don't know. It is out of my hands and they'll be talking in the next week or two."

The Feb. 13 deadline, imposed by MLS commissioner Don Garber a week ago and acknowledged by AEG president Tim Leiweke, prompted an offer reported in various outlets as between $5 milion and $10 million, which Leiweke rejected. An opt-out clause in Beckham's contract, which pays him $6.5 million in salary and related compensation per year, would permit Beckham to leave the Galaxy and MLS at the end of the 2009 season without hindrance or cost.

If he chooses, Beckham could also test the so-called Webster Rule, by which FIFA statues permit players to buy themselves out of the remaining portion of their contracts under certain conditions. In the case of a club refusing to sell a player under contract to another club despite the presence of a bona fide offer, the Webster Rule permits players aged 28 or younger who have completed three years of a contract to buy out the remainder; for players older than 28, they can do so after two years. Beckham is 33 and 2009 marks the third year of a five-year deal, so the Webster Rule may apply in his case.

The rule is named after Andy Webster, who left Scottish club Hearts for English club Wigan Athletic in 2006 under Article 17 of FIFA's status and transfer regulations.

On Jan. 30. the Court of Arbitration for Sport, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, ruled he needed to pay 150,000 pounds ($220,000) -- the remaining value of his contract --  compensation to Wigan in breaking his contract, far less than the compensation demanded by Wigan of 4.6 million pounds ($6.7 million) and less than a fine of 625,000 pounds ($920,000) levied by FIFA. Webster appealed the fine to the CAS.


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