- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 15, 2007

SEONGNAM, South Korea — Even at the Peace Cup, an eight-team international preseason warm-up, David Beckham’s move to the United States is still the talk of the tournament.

Reading FC coach Steve Coppell, a star with Manchester United and the English national team like Beckham, was skeptical at first.

“When we first heard about it, we just thought he was joining the gravy train to make some money, but his good form recently at Real Madrid and for the England team has now put a different face on the whole deal,” said Coppell, now the coach of Reading FC. “America does seem to be the obvious place for him because he and his wife love the limelight.”

But former Newcastle United star Kevin Dillon questions Beckham’s move to the Los Angeles Galaxy from Spanish giant Real Madrid, which he helped lead to a title for the first time in four years.

“I think he made the decision too early in his career,” said Dillon, now assistant coach at Reading FC. “He was fantastic for Real Madrid in those last 11 games. I’m sure he will be terrific for America because he’s a great ambassador and a great sportsman who is very competitive. However, I feel he should have stayed with Real Madrid for another year.”

But will Beckham, 32, finish his five-year contract, which is estimated at $250 million?

“If Beckham can adapt his game, he can last five years,” BBC sports reporter Tim Dellor said. “He’s never been reliant on pace. He’s more of a ball player who can make a great pass, and that is something you can keep going into your late 30s. I would worry more about players like Michael Owen, who rely on pace. They will never last till they are 37 or 38.”

Russell Kempson, a soccer writer for the Times of London, is doubtful of how Beckham will age.

“You’ll get a good two years out of Beckham and then his own personal commercial interests, as well a his pop singer wife’s, will take over and you won’t be able to marry the two,” Kempson said. “David Beckham has a big future as a superstar, not as a present day footballer.”

In England, just as in Asia, Beckham’s every move will in America will be closely followed.

“He really is the ultimate national icon now in Britain and people will want to keep in touch with what the Beckhams are doing — he and his famous wife,” Dellor said.

The Beckhams will have no problem with the media attention in the United States. They love it and willfully court it.

“What amazes me about both of them is how they actually enjoy the limelight,” Coppell said. “You would see them going into the Ivy [London’s hottest restaurant], and they really look as if they are enjoying themselves.”

Peace Cup games — Last night, Korean champion Seongnam, playing in its home stadium, could only hold mid-level Spanish club Racing Santander to a scoreless tie before 20,512 fans.

Mexican club Chivas lost 2-0 to English Premier League club Bolton Wanderers in Daegu on goals from Kevin Nolan and Zoltan Harsanyi. Bolton now leads Group A, which is wide open going into the final games.

Park fans Beckham’s old team Manchester United is home to Korean star Ji-Sung Park, and the English Premier League champion is beloved by Korean soccer fans.

Manchester arrives in Seoul this week to play Seoul FC at the 64,000 World Cup Stadium. Tickets for Friday’s game sold out in six hours.

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