When Beckham Almost Joined Barcelona

When Beckham Almost Joined Barcelona

25/03/24 13:01

In 2003, Barcelona were at a rather low point in their history. They were in the middle of a trophy drought and their arch rivals Real Madrid were dominating the footballing scene in Spain. When club President Joan Gaspart finally decided to resign, the supporters saw it as the perfect opportunity for someone to guide them into the new era. One candidate shone brightest and won the elections.

His name Joan Laporta and he played certain masterstrokes to win. One of them was the infamous Beckham saga. In 2003, David Beckham was one of football’s biggest brands. He was a treble winner at Manchester United and was coming into the peak of his career. Yet, a falling out with then manager Sir Alex Ferguson meant that he was on the on market.


Real Madrid were in their Galacticos era at the time and Beckham fitted the mould. They were the clear front runners in the race and had already sealed an agreement with the player. Meanwhile, Joan Laporta knew that he would have to promise a star signing to further strengthen his candidacy, much like Florentino Perez did with Luis Figo a few years ago.

Reportedly, the three names on his radar were Thierry Henry, Ronaldinho and of course David Beckham. Laporta and his board actually managed to reach an agreement with Manchester United where the club would sell the player to Barcelona if Joan won the elections. He just had to reach an agreement with the player and his agent. This is the story, in the words of Joan himself, “United told us that they would sell Beckham to us if we won the election as we didn't have the power at that time. But they used us and in the end he signed for Madrid.

"We met at Heathrow Airport and signed a document which said that they would sell him to us if we struck an agreement with the agent. However, we didn't manage to do that. We went to Nice and stayed with the agent and he said he would think about it. We got fed up of waiting on an answer, so we signed Ronaldinho instead."

Beckham was already in advanced negotiations to sign for Real Madrid and it would be too complicated for him to pull out of a prospective deal. However, it seems clear to me that Joan Laporta and his board members knew that from the start. Even though the Englishman was set to join Los Blancos, Laporta and Perez shared a good relationship. It’s possible that Joan asked Florentino to confirm the Barca-Beckham links just to create some hype in the media. This would help strengthen Laporta’s campaign and he would continue to work on the Ronaldinho deal behind the scenes, which is what happened.

David Beckham Madrid-min.jpg

One of Laporta’s biggest competitors in the elections Lluis Bassat also called the whole Beckham-Barca storyline “a bluff”. He said, “Something happened because a few days before the elections I had 42 per cent in voting intention while Laporta had just nine per cent. I called the head of the advertising agency that manages Manchester United and he told me that Beckham is already signed by Madrid.”

In the end, Laporta did win the elections and he did end up signing Ronaldinho for the club. The Brazilian injected life back into the club and went on to become one of the biggest idols and one of the most adored figures in the history of the club. The entire trajectory of the club changed and Joan’s men went into win multiple Champions Leagues and La Ligas, as well as a historic Sextuple in 2009, before he resigned from his first reign in 2010.

It seems clear to me that David Beckham would not have had the same impact at the club that Ronaldinho did. Sometimes you just have to sit back and let Joan Laporta work. The club is very lucky to have him.

By Rayyan Jehangir


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