x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

David Beckham cryptic about move to UAE Pro League

Al Jazira may sever ties with Fernandinho as the former Manchester United and LA Galaxy star fuels speculation during a visit to Abu Dhabi.

David Beckham attended an Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) Gala Dinner at Emirates Palace marina. Handout photo
David Beckham attended an Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) Gala Dinner at Emirates Palace marina. Handout photo

ABU DHABI // David Beckham, the former England captain who is looking for a new team, and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, owner of the Manchester City football club and chairman of the UAE side Al Jazira, attended the same invitation-only gala dinner for a magazine launch at the Emirates Palace marina last night.

Beckham has been linked in the international media with a move to a Middle East team. When asked by The National if he "might be joining us at Jazira", he replied: "We'll see."

It was not the sort of answer likely to quell speculation that the next and perhaps last stop in his championship-studded club career will be with the Abu Dhabi side who won a Pro League championship in 2011 and the President's Cup in both 2011 and 2012.

Earlier, an Al Jazira official said he "had no idea" if Beckham were in the capital or would meet with Sheikh Mansour.

Beckham, 37, was one of several prominent sports figures at the event for the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research. Seated to his right was Reggie Jackson, the baseball Hall of Famer, and on the other side of the large tent sat Serena Williams, owner of 15 grand slam tennis titles.

Beckham, cutting a trim figure in a dark blue suit and looking younger than his 37 years, made a point of crossing the room to see Williams, and spoke to her briefly. And he stopped again for more photos by star-struck guests.

Media reports have suggested that the Qatari side Al Sadd are interested in Beckham, but perhaps for the 2013/14 season. He also was linked with Al Wasl, the Dubai club, who reportedly denied interest in the former Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan and LA Galaxy midfielder.

It seems highly unlikely Beckham would be interested in playing for Manchester City, given his long tenure at United, but a move to a UAE club would further broaden "Brand Beckham", the term often applied to the business ventures endorsed by the athlete and his wife, Victoria, and put him in the Middle East and the Muslim world for the first time.

Jazira have been known for paying top salaries in the Pro League; the two most expensive acquisitions in Pro League history, the Brazilian forwards Ricardo Oliveira and Rafael Sobis, each joined Jazira.

Perhaps coincidentally, Jazira in recent weeks have given limited playing time to the Brazilian attacking player Fernandinho, who has lost his place in the first XI to the Emirati forward Ali Mabkhout. Were Jazira to sever ties with Fernandinho, that would open a slot in the January transfer window for another non-Emirati to join the side.

Jazira have stuggled at times in midfield, where Ibrahim Diaky and Subait Khater are past their primes yet logging significant minutes. Beckham's time with England saw him on the right side of midfield, serving those famous long balls to grateful attackers, but with the Galaxy he often played in the middle of the park.

Recently, the UAE football pundit Kefah Al Kaabi suggested Beckham would bring more attention to UAE football than did the former Wasl coach Diego Maradona, because Beckham remains an active player.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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