I'D SIGN BECKS

Sunday 4 November 2001

From the News of the World

MOHAMED AL FAYED has described his close friendship with David and Victoria Beckham - and revealed how he has even tried to persuade Becks to join him at Fulham!

Soccer's most extrovert and eccentric chairman has already wined and dined the country's most glamorous couple, who frequently visit his Harrod's store in London.

And in an exclusive Sport of the World interview, Al Fayed lived up to his flamboyant image by confirming he:

HAS personally told England captain Beckham he wants to sign him.

INTENDS going ahead with the £90m redevelopment of the Cottage which may be named after Princess Diana and his son Dodi, who died together in a car crash four years ago.

SPENT £100million on Fulham so far and is prepared to spend £200m to bring Premiership and European glory to Craven Cottage.

CALLED for a complete overhaul in refereeing to raise standards and protect the interests of every club.

DECLARED for the first time that Fulham will stay in the Fayed family for ever.
Speaking in his inner sanctum on the fifth floor of Harrods - his great pride and joy alongside Fulham - he told me: "If Jean Tigana wants Beckham I'll get him for my manager.

"David is a good friend of mine - both him and his wife Victoria. They have had a holiday at my home in St Tropez.

"Sometimes when they come here together shopping, we have lunch and I'm always talking with him about playing for us.

"I tell him he can come shopping and spend all his wages here at my store! I'd love to have him play for me if he wants to come. Of course I can afford him, no problem. Beckham is a maestro.

"You see that when he plays he's in control of everything - his legs, his knees, his head - that's very important.

"Sometimes you have great players but their brain is kaput."

Fulham's owner likened Beckham to another Manchester United legend who joined the Cottagers in the 1970s.

He said: "I was coming to watch Fulham when George Best was here. I was proud that such a great player came to play for the club I loved. Best was then what Beckham is today.

"And if Best played for Fulham - why not Beckham? If we were good enough for Georgie, we are also good enough for Becks."

England captain Beckham, whose contract runs out in 18 months, has yet to put pen to paper on a new deal.

He would command sky-high wages, and he is expected to become the first player to break the £100,000-a-week barrier.

Al Fayed's hope will be that Beckham may need a new challenge after a trophy-laden career at Old Trafford.

And United boss Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement next summer could be another factor as Fergie's successor may not be to the England captain's taste.

Italy's prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, the media tycoon and owner of AC Milan, has so far been the only other man openly bidding for Becks.

And Al Fayed knows Ful well he can convince his pal Beckham to join only if Tigana's team can offer him Champions League football.

Despite playing sleek football Fulham have so far been the Premiership's Anna Kournikova: very sexy and brimming with talent, but not winning too many games.

Al Fayed disagrees: "In this game we deal with humans. Like artists, sometimes they're in the mood to create great paintings or play a great piece of music and then again sometimes they are struggling. They're still getting in the mood. It takes some time.

"The same happened last season. The team has not quite gelled yet. It's like a puzzle.

"You put it together. You need to find a way to put the pieces together and make them fit in the right way.

"I'm still calm and I have a lot of confidence in this team."

As for more forays into the transfer market he added: "We're open to that and always interested in superstars. My aim is really to be champions. I'm not here to be mediocre and in the middle of the table. We will get there."

Many might scoff at the thought that Beckham would swap the star-studded Theatre of Dreams for the club until recently regarded as Chelsea's poor West London relations. But 69-year-old Al Fayed and Fulham were the summer's second-biggest spenders behind United.

They spent more than £32m buying stars like £7.5m Holland keeper Edwin van der Sar from Juventus and £11.5m France striker Steve Marlet from Olympique Lyonnais.

So United had better watch out, because Al Fayed has the financial muscle to put his money where his mouth is.

The billionaire Egyptian, who also owns the Paris Ritz Hotel, added: "You're not far off when you say I've spent £100m on the club so far. And I would be prepared to spend an even bigger amount to bring success to Fulham. That goes both for the construction of our new stadium and acquiring the players who will bring us championship and European glory.

"Building our new state-of-the-art, 32,000-seater stadium will cost between £70m and £90m.

"We have planning permission and we are confident we can press ahead with our plans early in the New Year.

"It would be lovely to name the stadium after Princess Diana and my son Dodi but I am considering a number of options with our commercial partners."

Al Fayed is absolutely determined to protect his massive outlay and in the week when two high-profile referees, Dermot Gallagher and Paul Durkin, received Premiership suspensions, the Fulham chairman claims top-flight officials are not up to the job.

He said: "I have invested a fortune and mistakes do endanger my investment. It's very important for referees to regulate justly.

"The ref has to be really sure like a judge. If a judge doesn't give the right decision the result is a disaster.

"Look at penalties. You see that something really serious happens and you definitely deserve the penalty.

"They ignore that, and this penalty can make a serious difference in a match. I'm screaming to the Premier League chairmen that they have to review the referees in the interests of all the clubs, because mistakes can happen.

"It's very important. We have to select very distinguished referees. Maybe old players or players who have just retired - people who really know the game."

Al Fayed revealed that the club he's loved for more than three decades will always remain in his family.

The Fulham chairman is grateful to the club's supporters for the comfort and encouragement they gave him over Dodi's death shortly after he had taken over at the club.

Now Al Fayed is firm that his younger sons will take over when he steps down.

He added: "I have said that I will stay with Fulham until I bring glory to the club. And now I can say to the readers of Sport of the World that I will stay with the club forever, till I am 100 years old. After that my two kids definitely will take over.

"Football for me is the same as it is for any fan - a great release from the pressures of everyday life. For 90 minutes you forget your troubles and sorrows.

"You get this buzz, this energy when you see those fans.They have helped me enormously in my times of grief.

"Dodi was very much involved in the first few months and I wanted him to inherit Fulham.

"But I have another two boys, who both love football. One is with me all the time and watches every match. He's a keen football supporter and would love to be in charge one day.

"Fulham is a family business and will stay in the family. Harrods and the Ritz in Paris are family businesses, and they will also stay in the family.

"When I do business I do it with attachment, with love. It's not only making money but you want to be involved with the business.

"The Ritz is the best hotel in the world, Harrods is the best department store in the world.

"Fulham will be the same, the best football club in the world."

This report from Football 365

Fulham Chairman Mohamed Al Fayed says he will buy David Beckham if Jean Tigana wants him.

The Egyptian billionaire has already tried to persuade the Manchester United midfielder, who has 18 months left on his contract, to sign for his club.

He is expected to become the first player to break the £100,000-a-week barrier when he signs a new deal - and Al Fayed insists money will not be a problem.

"If Jean Tigana wants Beckham I'll get him for my manager," Al Fayed told News Of The World.

"David is a good friend of mine - both him and his wife Victoria. They have had a holiday at my home in St Tropez.

"Sometimes when they come here together shopping, we have lunch and I'm always talking with him about playing for us. I tell him he can come shopping and spend all his wages here at my store!

"I'd love to have him play for me if he wants to come. Of course I can afford him, no problem. Beckham is a maestro."

Al Fayed added: "I was coming to watch Fulham when George Best was here.

"I was proud that such a great player came to play for the club I loved. Best was then what Beckham is today.

"And if Best played for Fulham - why not Beckham? If we were good enough for Georgie, we are also good enough for Becks.