The battle to pull off one of the biggest coups in Australian sport has begun as five A-League clubs kicked off the race to sign David Beckham.
Negotiations are still at an early stage, but the A-League's bid to lure Beckham from the California coast to Australian shores is gathering momentum, with at least five clubs interested in offering deals. It is understood one club has submitted its offer to Beckham's representatives, and four more are expected to tender bids by Tuesday night.
The identity of the club that has already made an official approach remains unknown but Melbourne Heart, Adelaide United and Perth Glory have all confirmed their intent to sign the football star.
Heart chief executive Scott Munn publicly expressed his interest in luring the star to AAMI Park, and believes he could leave a long legacy after a stint in Melbourne.
And Glory chief executive Paul Kelly has outlined his desire for Perth to outdo their rivals' marquee signings, and will pull out all the stops to snare Beckham.
''We've formally requested to discuss the prospect, we've signalled our intent,'' a Perth Glory spokesman said. ''We've told his Australian representative that we're willing to discuss bringing David Beckham to Perth, should he be interested in coming to Australia.''
The Glory are funded by mining magnate Tony Sage, and will likely be able to meet Beckham's demands. Perth will have a limited capacity at their home ground, nib Stadium, due to renovations this season, but are considering moving to Patersons Stadium for the rest of the campaign if they are successful in capturing the former England captain.
Adelaide United chairman Greg Griffin has also confirmed his club will pursue a deal with Beckham. The Reds were not one of the clubs first approached by the player's representatives but declared they will launch a bid after hearing he was interested in coming to Australia.
''We've just put forward our position to the people we understand are representing him, and we would like to take it further,'' Griffin said.
Adelaide will require a third party, such as the South Australian government or the FFA, to contribute to a potential deal with Beckham. The Reds are looking at signing him on a 10-match guest stint beginning next month, and will consider the possibility of moving some of the more high-profile home games, such as the visit of Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory, to Adelaide Oval.
''I think we would stay at Hindmarsh but a club like Adelaide would bring some government interest. Beckham would be a massive thing for tourism,'' Griffin said.
Brisbane Roar will not make a bid for Beckham despite initially looking at the possibility of bringing him to Suncorp Stadium. The champions are funded by the wealthy Indonesian Bakrie Group but decided not to pursue the offer as it would conflict with their long-term agenda.
''We had some contact with the agent,'' a Brisbane Roar spokesman said. ''We've discussed this internally but decided that it doesn't fit with the club's philosophy and long-term future. We won't be making a bid at this stage.''
A 10-match guest stint remains the most likely deal as Beckham is contracted to LA Galaxy until the end of next year, and a more permanent move would attract a large transfer fee on top of his wage demands.
Beckham denied receiving any offers to move to Australia in a press conference in the US on Friday and said he was focused on the Major League Soccer play-offs.
He said a deal with an A-League club was ''definitely not true'' and denied any knowledge of an offer. However, it's understood his management is waiting to receive all formal offers before laying them on the table with Beckham once the MLS season ends at the start of next month.
The Reds have the space in the squad, and could strike a deal with the state government to help fund it. A 10-match guest deal would boost tourism.
The champions are backed by the wealthy Bakrie Group, and were considered favourites to land the superstar. But they decided he did not fit with their long-term philosophy.
CENTRAL COAST MARINERS
The smallest A-League club is the least likely to table an offer. They have no marquee players, and have had to sell players in recent years to balance the books.
CEO Scott Munn is keen and believes the former England captain could boost the club's profile in Melbourne's congested sporting landscape.
The league's biggest club in terms of members would seem an ideal home for Beckham. But coach Ange Postecoglou said he had no interest.
Considered outsiders given the financial woes of owner Nathan Tinkler. But could use Beckham's former England teammate Emile Heskey to lure him to the club.
The Glory have been the most vocal in their hunt for Beckham, and could afford to sign him. Distance from the rest of the country could be a deterrent.
The Sky Blues would seem a natural fit for Beckham but finding a new coach is their priority. They already have one superstar on their books but could accommodate Beckham on a short-term deal.
Becks' intelligence was the subject of an unprovoked attack by the New Zealand Prime Minister a fortnight ago, and that could come back and bite the Phoenix, should they launch a bid.
WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS
The A-League debutants would be considered strong candidates, and are backed by the money of the FFA and Frank Lowy. The FFA might be hesitant to avoid a perceived conflict of interest by signing a superstar for the club they bankroll.
- Sydney Morning Herald