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Beckham’s Transfer Not Likely

Times Staff Writer

David Beckham, under contract with Manchester United until 2005, is the subject of extensive speculation in Spain and England about a possible transfer to Real Madrid, a move that one English tabloid newspaper, the Sun, estimated would cost Real Madrid $63 million and net Beckham a salary of $170,000 a week.

On Thursday, however, Jorge Valdano, sports director of the reigning world and European club champion, dismissed the rumors, telling the club’s own television channel that “the possibility that Beckham will one day play for Real Madrid is very remote.”

It had been Valdano’s comment to the As newspaper that Beckham “would fit into our project” that had sparked the speculation in the first place.

Of course, with Manchester United and Real Madrid set to face each other in the quarterfinals of the European Champions League on April 8 and 23, the talk might be nothing more than a way of unsettling United.

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Former Real Madrid great Alfredo Di Stefano, put matters in perspective when he told the Marca newspaper Thursday that, “I think it’s all of you [the media] who want to sell him to Madrid [which] already has some excellent players.... We would have to play with 13 players in the team.”

Then, too, there is Inter Milan, which also has been making overtures in Beckham’s direction.

Zidane Is Captain

Defending European champion France on Thursday named Real Madrid midfielder Zinedine Zidane as national team captain, replacing Marcel Desailly.

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“He possesses all the natural leadership skills required for the role,” said France Coach Jacques Santini. “He has the respect and admiration of the players as well as a great influence on the game.”

FIFA Rankings

Guatemala made the most significant advance among FIFA’s 204 member nations in March when it climbed 27 places, from 81st to 54th, in the monthly FIFA world rankings.

Coach Julio Cesar Cortes’ team, spearheaded by Galaxy striker Carlos Ruiz, made the jump by defeating Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras en route to qualifying for the CONCACAF Gold Cup in Mexico and the United States in July.

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At the top of the order, world champion Brazil remained No. 1, but Spain moved ahead of France into second place. Rounding out the top 10 were, in order, Argentina, Germany, the Netherlands, Turkey, Mexico, England and the U.S.

MLS Update

The Chicago Fire acquired Jamaica national team midfielder Andy Williams from the New York/New Jersey MetroStars in exchange for a conditional draft pick in 2004. Williams, 25, has played 98 games in five seasons with the Columbus Crew, the Miami Fusion, the New England Revolution and the MetroStars.

Luchi Gonzalez, waived by the San Jose Earthquakes after only one season, has joined Bodens BK of the Swedish second division, Soccer America magazine reported.

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Gonzalez, 22, from Southern Methodist University, was the sixth player taken in the 2002 MLS draft after winning the Hermann Trophy and MAC Award as college soccer’s top player in 2001.

Quick Passes

The Women’s United Soccer Assn. (WUSA) said its 2003 championship match will be played on Aug. 24 at the University of San Diego’s Torero Stadium, home of the San Diego Spirit.... Carolina Courage forward Birgit Prinz played her 100th game and scored her 47th goal for Germany and Inka Grings got a hat trick Thursday as Germany routed Scotland, 5-0, in Potsdam, in its first qualifying match for the 2005 European Women’s Championship in England.... Costa Rica scored two goals in the first 10 minutes and went on to easily defeat Mexico, 4-1, at Victoria, Canada, in a qualifying match for the FIFA Under-17 World Championship in Finland. In the same qualifying series, Canada beat Cuba, 3-1 ....Toluca of Mexico defeated Valencia of Spain, 3-1, at Toluca in a friendly match to mark the club’s 50th anniversary.


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