“When I want a peerage,” sniffed Alfred Harmsworth (later Lord Northcliffe), “I’ll buy one like an honest man. So yeah: I want to start by apologizing for a ridiculous statement in my last column, which argued that David Beckham’s mega-lucrative promotional deal with Qatar meant he “wore the face of a man who knows ‘he’ll never get his knighthood now’. It was obviously wrong. Having received £150m for his work in shillings for the Qatari regime, David is actually even better placed to buy a knighthood than he was before, and could easily stand for a peerage.
But could David also be involved in buying something else? Namely, Manchester United football club, which you will have noted is back on the market after the beloved Glazer family finally decided to cash in on the club they bought in debt in 2005. Can you cash out something you’ve never put cash in? Surprisingly, yes. High finance is magic, and I have a lot of time for it.
According to the Financial Times, Beckham is “open to talks with potential Manchester United candidates”, aware that his support “could lend credibility”.
Could he? Granted, his unattractive antics over the past few weeks have catapulted him closer into the public affections of the reviled category of sports owners, though of course his personal wealth is nothing like what you’d need to be. significantly financially involved in a bid, with current estimates of United’s value ricocheting happily between just under £5bn and over £7bn.
But Beckham’s sense that he would make a worthy figurehead or appeasement of heritage fans for someone else’s offer is intriguing. On one level, it’s hard to know how much appeasement would even be needed. There’s no more elegant kingpin in world sport than spending years complaining about the World Cup being held in Qatar to begging a Gulf state to come and buy your club, and I’m sure we’ll see amazing examples of this being performed as the sale heats up.
As to who Beckham would lend his image to, that’s the big question. Although he’s not officially a spokesperson for Just For Men Beard and Mustache dye, Beckham’s alarmingly colored beard now looks so odd he could almost be the sequel’s Glazer contender, at least. on the strange front of facial hair. (You will remember the particular beard sported by the late paterfamilias Malcolm Glazer. In my taxonomy of beard types, I always think of this one as “the evil special”, although of course there is absolutely no suggestion that Malcolm’s faults were more than financial. Tonsorily, Glazer owed much to the Amish. And financially, he owed much to a number of funds and institutions.)
Anyway: runners and runners for a club application. Ineos tycoon Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who has been a lifelong United fan and already involved in sports ownership, is openly enthusiastic. Jim is the richest man in Britain – lives in Monaco, obviously – but something about the cut of his jib makes me feel like he would be the long prelude to your first sighting of a “GLAZERS IN” banner.
The Daily Star seems to think Apple is interested (no), while The Times mentions Amazon and Meta. The latter would suggest that Mark Zuckerberg’s cravings for money are somehow insufficiently satisfied by the metaverse on which he has already given up more than the United States has spent on the entire Manhattan Project. Then comes the obligatory pair of Americans, in the form of Stephen Pagliuca and Larry Tanenbaum, disappointed finalists to buy Chelsea. Then there’s Jim O’Neill and his Red Knights, and Zara mogul Amancio Ortega. Arguably the one to watch is Dubai International Capital, which would mean cuddly Sheikh Makhtoum could trade notes with Beckham over their iron filings beards, like a pair of those magnetic Wooly Willy toys.
But, in terms of joking, you have to think that some other small Gulf state might come with a late surprise, as soon as Qatar realizes there’s a piece of the UK that it doesn’t have not yet purchased. After all, even considering only London’s luxury hotels, Beckham’s friends in the Qatari regime own part or all of The Ritz, Claridge’s, Connaught, Berkeley and InterContinental Park Lane. So they enjoy internal competition, and PSG could serve as a nice little feeder club or something.
It would certainly make for the sort of flashy launch event that Beckham might be drawn to. When the Qataris opened the Shard, the party included Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of Qatar and Prince Andrew. So there you have Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of Qatar and Prince Andrew on top of an extremely tall glass building. I know what you’re thinking – and believe me, too – but it’s impossible to print these things without someone writing a painful letter about you to the readers editor, and I don’t have the weather this weekend.
So let’s wrap up this section by noting that Prince Andrew abseiled part of the Shard for charity, mocking that there was “a lot of psychopathic babble about that stuff.” Cold as a cucumber; no sweating. After completing his descent, Andrew said: “My whole family, who have been very supportive of me, probably want to know that I landed safely.” (But did they? Hopefully The Crown series will portray this incident as a failed assassination attempt by Prince Philip. I can’t win them all.)
However you slice it, then there’s everything to play with our Golden Balls-for-hire. Hopefully our manscaped figurehead finds a ship to bond to very quickly, allowing him to sail the lucrative tides again.
Marina Hyde World Cup week will appear every Friday during the tournament