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CARSON, Calif. – David Beckham's stint with English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur descended further into farce on Thursday when the England midfielder was barred from playing in a training game.
Beckham linked up with Tottenham in early January and had hoped to be allowed to play in several EPL games, but has been met with resistance from his employers, the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The Galaxy took a hard line from the outset, insisting that under the terms of his contract – which only has one season left – he must report back in California for preseason training on Feb. 10.
Now Major League Soccer's most famous team has taken things a step further by refusing to allow the 35-year-old to take part in a practice match against squad players from second-tier English team Queens Park Rangers.
The match, which was played on a training field with no fans present, was organized by the two clubs in order to give players not currently seeing first-team action some playing time.
However, according to sources close to the club and a report in the Guardian newspaper, the Galaxy told Tottenham that Beckham did not have permission to take the field due to an ongoing insurance dispute. The two parties have not been able to agree on who should pay the insurance premium that protects the Galaxy against financial loss if he is injured.
With Beckham having missed six months of last season – including the World Cup – after suffering a torn Achilles' heel while on loan at AC Milan in March, L.A. is deeply concerned over the possibility he could suffer another season-ruining setback.
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp told the English media last week that Beckham had been given the all-clear to take part in full practice games.
"(Beckham) can just join in and train properly," Redknapp told the Guardian's David Hytner.
The EPL club was therefore surprised when their request to use Beckham in the QPR match was summarily rebuffed. The Galaxy had no comment when contacted by Yahoo! Sports on Thursday.
Beckham has played only 57 regular-season games since joining the Galaxy in the summer of 2007 and there is desperation in the L.A. hierarchy to finally see a full season of action from him and to make a serious run at the MLS Cup title before he leaves for good.
If the team can win the trophy in his final campaign, team owners AEG can legitimately claim that the Beckham Experiment has been something of a success. Signing Colombian striker Juan Pablo Angel (also 35) this week was proof that the club is targeting immediate success, and will worry about the future at a later point.
Beckham is unlikely to be pleased with any of the developments that have taken place since the turn of the year. By now he fully expected to be suiting up in a Tottenham jersey, playing EPL games, and trying to convince England manager Fabio Capello that he is still worthy of national team consideration.
Instead, he has done little more than take part in a handful of much-photographed training sessions, while the Galaxy and Tottenham have butted heads.
The latest impasse over training games suggests a resolution is further away than ever, and that a disgruntled Beckham will be back in the United States before too long.
Beckham's spokesman Simon Oliveira claimed early on Friday that the player had not planned to take part in the training game, and had no interest in doing so.