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Football | International

David Beckham © Action Images

Chinese clubs play down Becks' move



China's top clubs played down any attempts to sign football superstar David Beckham on Wednesday as speculation went into overdrive about a potential move to the fast-growing league.

The cash-rich Chinese Super League has lured Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi over the past year but none of the leading clubs confirmed a move for Beckham, who is quitting LA Galaxy.

"I have nothing to say right now," said a spokesman for Beijing Guoan, when contacted by AFP.

Officials at Drogba and Anelka's club Shanghai Shenhua, Lippi's team Guangzhou Evergrande, and Guizhou Renhe – which is in contact with Chelsea's Frank Lampard – also said they were unaware of any bid to sign Beckham.

The ex-England, Manchester United and Real Madrid player, 37, said he is looking for "one more challenge as a player", but has not decided where. Next month's Major League Soccer Cup final will be his last game for Galaxy.

The chance to put Chinese football on the map, as he did for Major League Soccer, is thought to be an attraction for Beckham, and China's clubs seem able to meet high wage demands with Drogba reportedly earning $300 000 a week.

British media also speculated that China, and particularly Shanghai, would be a savvy destination for the fashion business run by Beckham's wife, ex-Spice Girl singer Victoria.

However, Australia, Europe and another club in the United States are also believed to be options for the tattooed former English captain, who remains one of the sport's biggest stars.

Chinese social media buzzed with 1.2 million posts about Beckham, or "Little Becks", on Wednesday, with the topic 'Could Beckham be coming to the Chinese Super League' among the most widely discussed on the popular Sina Weibo site.

But an online poll asking whether Beckham would make the move saw less than 500 people say it was likely, with more than 2 500 people saying it wouldn't happen.

Contributors cited the poor standards of Chinese football, Beckham's wage demands, and the perception that his wife would find it hard to settle in China.

"If he does come, I will buy a ticket to watch him play, but the environment in China is not good, so I think his wife will not agree to let him come," said one user.

Another wrote: "I would like to see him here, but I don't think he will come because the (football) standard here is not good."

Beckham has been a hugely popular figure in China since he first made his name at Manchester United, which is strongly supported in the country.

China's online community are also keen followers of his celebrity lifestyle, along with that of his wife.

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