Beckham says $250 million deal not about the money

LOS ANGELES (TICKER) —David Beckham insists his move from Real Madrid to the Los Angeles Galaxy for $250 million over five years is not about the money.

Should he realize all of that money - some of which is tied to promotional and marketing strategies - Beckham would make nearly $1 million per week.

However, the 31-year-old midfielder wants to play out the coda of his career in Major League Soccer to attempt to transform the sport in the United States, which considers soccer an afterthought.

“I don’t want to go out to America at 34 with people saying, ‘He is only going for the money,’” Beckham said. “I am going out to hopefully build a team which has a lot of potential; that’s what excites me.

“Soccer in America is the biggest-played sport up to a certain age. That’s where I want to take it to another level. I think it can go higher in America. There are so many great sports in the USA. Soccer is huge all around the world, except in America, and that’s where I want to make a difference.”

DC United president Kevin Payne said Galaxy owner Tim Leiweke “demonstrated a great deal of vision, courage and persistence in pursuing this opportunity.” But others in MLS aren’t so sure.

The deal was branded “a disgrace” by Terry Cooke, a former Manchester United youth teammate of Beckham’s who plays for Colorado of MLS.

“It’s a disgrace if it’s true what I’ve heard about how much he’s going to be earning,” Cooke said. “Obviously, it’s good for him, but we have a salary cap here for each team, which is $1.9 million for a roster of 28 players.”

Beckham’s decision to turn his back on European soccer has seen him reject several bids from clubs in Britain and Italy as well as the offer of a new two-year contract with Real Madrid.

His landmark deal compares with the biggest in American pro team sports. Baseball star Alex Rodriguez signed a $252 million contract in 2000 with the Texas Rangers, but that was over 10 years.

Beckham’s contract would not have been possible had MLS not recently changed its salary cap rules to allow sides to make marquee signings of top international stars.

The deal also will allow Beckham to benefit directly from all his image rights and sponsorship deals associated with the Galaxy. The unique agreement also will directly involve MLS, which is paying for part of the deal.

“I have played at the highest level for 15 years, and now I think I need another challenge,” said Beckham, who already has a soccer academy in Los Angeles.

The deal also presents a challenge for MLS, which has had its share of financial problems in battling the perception of soccer as a niche sport in America. MLS commissioner Don Garber believes Beckham can change that perception.

“David Beckham is a global sports icon who will transcend the sport of soccer in America,” Garber said. “His global popularity will help take MLS and the sport of soccer in this country to an unprecedented level of excitement and popularity here and abroad.”

The deal would not have been possible without the recent decision by MLS to allow teams two exemptions to their salary cap to sign stars such as Beckham. The North American Soccer League broke its collective bank using the same strategy decades ago.

“It’s marketing money, but they’ve got to be careful because this is what happened in the 1970s,” Cooke said. “They started throwing money about to Pele, George Best and those sorts of players, and it backfired. They’re trying to do that again, but for the wrong reasons.”

Updated Thursday, Jan 11, 2007