by Steve Brenner
Agence France Presse
MIAMI, United States (AFP) — David Beckham wants to emulate Manchester United’s tradition of youth development as he looks to build success with his new Major League Soccer franchise in Miami.
The English football superstar was celebrating Monday after his four-year wait to own an MLS franchise came to end in a glitzy press conference in Florida.
Good luck messages were beamed to the new team’s excited “Southern Legion” fan group from the likes of Neymar, Tom Brady, Usain Bolt and Hollywood A-lister Will Smith.
There is still no name for the team or logo, while controversy over the building of a 25,000-seater stadium in Overtown, a deprived area of downtown Miami where Beckham’s ownership group have purchased a plot of land which will eventually cost in excess of $25 million.
A legal case against the sale of one part of the land remains ongoing and won’t be settled until June.
“This is a positive story,” said Beckham when asked about appeasing those who are against his plans.
“We want to be good neighbors.”
Brand Beckham, however, is alive and well in South Florida and, of course, it wasn’t long before player names were being thrown into the mix as he took questions.
‘Ronaldo? Ask him’
“Cristiano Ronaldo? You’d have to ask him,” Beckham said when quizzed if he would be making a move for the Portuguese superstar.
Naturally, a team in Miami needs a big name to push ticket sales and get the marketing men interested.
Yet Beckham knows about the importance of nurturing from within.
The former Real Madrid midfielder was part of the famous “Class of 92” who came through the ranks at Manchester United and helped take the club on an unforgettable, trophy-laden journey under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Beckham, along with Gary and Phil Neville, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs were the cream of United’s crop and the new owner of the 25th MLS franchise wants to create something similar in Miami.
“I have already had so many calls from top players and of course you need to bring some superstars in,” said Beckham who stressed close friend Gary Neville wouldn’t be considered for a managerial role because “he talks too much.”
“There are so many names I would love to bring in,” Beckham said.
“We want to reach for the stars. Miami needs a star and that’s what we plan on doing but my dream is to create a state-of-the art academy where we have a hotbed of talent and bring kids through just like we did at United.
“That will make us so proud. We were a unique group of kids who saved United so much money over the years.
“We all came in during 1992 and were very successful. We were only successful because of the players we came in with – Roy Keane, Eric Cantona etc as well as a manager like Alex Ferguson.
“That’s where my experience comes in. I understand the academies where you save money – I am talking like an owner now! – and where you bring these talented kids through.
“If you can do that it would be incredible.
“The ownership group have made it clear, my role is to look for the right manager. It doesn’t have to be a big name. I am not saying it’s not going to be but I want to focus on the philosophy of the club and the team.
“That’s what I want to build towards.”
Naturally, Beckham will forever be associated with Old Trafford and though his eyes were firmly on his Miami prize, it was impossible for him to escape events closer to home.
Alexis Sanchez’s move from Arsenal certainly caught him on the hop.
“It’s great to see him in a United shirt and I’m sure he’s going to be successful,” he said.
“I still find it hard to believe it’s actually happened. It’s amazing.”
© Agence France-Presse