The English soccer star is in talks with Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua about a move to the Far East. He is considering singing a short-term, but lucrative, contract with the club, according to the Mirror.
“Sources close to the star suggest he is keen to take up the challenge,” the report says. “Negotiations are likely to continue when the Beckhams return from their Christmas family holiday.”
Beckham will become a free agent this week, having ended a six-year stay with the L.A. Galaxy. A host of clubs have reportedly made offers to the 37-year-old, but he has not publicly revealed a preference for one over another.
Privately, he is thought to be excited at the prospect of playing in China and extending his personal brand to the world’s biggest market.
“David always said he wanted one more challenge and he loves the idea of playing in China,” a source told the Mirror. “It will undoubtedly make him a global star. He won’t have just conquered Europe and America, but the Far East too. It is also appealing to Becks as it is very different to anywhere he has played before and he is keen to promote football in places where it isn’t particularly high-profile.
“He is so passionate about the game and likes the idea that he can share that with people who don’t already appreciate it. Talks have begun and while he is on his Christmas break he and Victoria are discussing it as a very serious option.”
Shanghai Shenhua has reportedly offered Beckham a contract that would pay him a minimum salary of £250,000 ($403,800) a week. He would also stand to earn at least £20 million ($32.3 million) from endorsement and merchandising deals.
The club rose to prominence in 2012 when it signed Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba from Chelsea FC. It has designs of becoming a Chinese superclub, but a boardroom dispute and managerial turmoil muted the effects of those signings and hampered the team’s performances. It finished ninth in the 16-team Chinese Super League (CSL), missing out on the playoffs and next season’s Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League.
Landing Beckham would fix the spotlight on Shanghai Shenhua for at least another year.
Television mogul Simon Fuller, Beckham’s close friend and manager, is reportedly engineering the China move. It could see world soccer’s biggest celebrity land in a city that is expected to one day become the world’s richest.