MADRID, Spain (Saturday, January 13, 2006) -- David Beckham could become the world's most expensive practice player.
After Beckham signed a five-year deal to join Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy, Real Madrid coach Fabio Capello stated today that he will not play Beckham in any more games even though he is under contract through June 30.
"He is not going to play any more. He will practice, but he is not going to play," Capello told a news conference. "The player's decision is to go to Los Angeles. He has always been a great professional, but a player who has such a major contract with another team. . . we cannot count on him. I think one cannot have the same drive if one is already with another team."
Beckham's MLS pact is projected to be worth $250 million over its duration, though a large majority of it would be for participation in marketing and endorsements. The erstwhile England captain is estimated to earn approaching $38 million from Real for the current season with about $10 million directly related to his participation as a player.
Simon Oliveira, a spokesperson for the 31-year-old midfielder, told Associated Press Beckham would "continue to give his full commitment and professionalism to (Real). . . David is surprised at the quotes from Fabio Capello, as nobody from the club has informed him of their intentions. As far as David is aware, he has a contract for the remainder of the season and he remains dedicated to the club and its supporters."
Beckham played in 13 of 17 Primera División matches this season, starting five for Real (10-5-2), while starting once in five European Champions League appearances. He had two goals and one assist in league games.
Capello's comments certainly caught the attention of MLS officials. The plan was for Beckham to fulfill his contract in Spain, take a month off, then join the Galaxy August 1. If Beckham could leave Madrid earlier, that might allow him to play in more MLS games in a season that begins for Los Angeles with a match against the league champion Houston Dynamo April 8.
The MLS 2007 schedule has not yet been released, but as soon as the Beckham announcement was made, team executives started lobbying to make sure the Galaxy's visit to their city came after "Becks" arrived.
The Galaxy, which plays in the Western Conference, visits each Eastern Conference city once during the 30-match regular season. L.A. will also compete in two Cup tournaments, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the new Superliga, which includes four MLS and four Mexican clubs.
Meanwhile, former England manager Bobby Robson thinks Beckham being cut from his national team led him to leave top-flight soccer for what he termed a "very lucrative semi-retirement."
Beckham, who resigned as England captain after last summer's World Cup, was dropped completely from the squad by manager Steve McLaten in August.
"The decision killed Beckham's aspiration and hope and, in my view, led directly to this week's announcement that he is off the the United States for a very lucrative semi-retirement," the colorful Robson, 73, wrote in his column for London's Mail.
"You have to say now that McClaren was right. Those of us, including myself, who wanted Beckham to be involved did so because we felt he was among England's top 25 players. In principle he still should be but, in reality, he hasn't done anything this season to prove it. Even if the legs haven't gone, the motivation has. What has become clear this week is that David no longer has the appetite to challenge at the very highest level."