MADRID - Former England captain David Beckham will leave Real Madrid at the end of the season and sign a five-year deal for MLS side Los Angeles Galaxy, he told Reuters today.
"This week Real Madrid asked me to make a decision regarding my future and the offer to extend my contract for a further two seasons," said Beckham.
"After discussing several options with my family and my advisors to either stay here in Madrid or join other major British and European teams I have decided to join LA Galaxy and play in the MLS from August this year.
"I would like to thank supporters and the people of Madrid who have made my family and I so welcome in my time here making this an extremely difficult decision to make.
"I have enjoyed my time here enormously and I am extremely grateful to the club for giving me an opportunity to play for such a great team and their amazing fans."
Real Madrid confirmed that Beckham would not renew his contract with the club.
"After a meeting this morning at the Bernabeu between the club and David Beckham's agents both parties decided that David would not extend his present contract with the club which ends on June 30, 2007," Real said on their website (www.realmadrid.com).
The 31-year-old, who joined Real from Manchester United in June 2003, is the most famous player to sign up for Major League Soccer since it began in 1996.
He is also the biggest name player to move to club soccer in the US since the likes of Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff played in the long-defunct North American Soccer League (NASL) in the 1970s and early eighties.
His deal is reported to be one of the biggest in global sport with Beckham set to earn more than US$250 million ($368.73 million) over the duration of his contract -- approximately one million dollars a week.
LA Galaxy had made public their interest in Beckham who runs a football academy that shares its home with the team and who has close links to the Anschutz Entertainment Group who own the club.
"David Beckham coming to MLS might be viewed by some as one of the most important moments for soccer in this country and perhaps the history of professional sport," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement.
"David trancends the sport and is a cultural icon. David is clearly one of the most recognisable athletes in the world. People are going to feel really good about David Beckham spending the rest of his career in the US"
The news ends months of speculation about the future of the midfielder whose contract with Real expires at the end of the season.
Having been first choice in the Real Madrid starting lineup since he moved to Spain, Beckham lost his place following the arrival of Italian coach Fabio Capello.
He has only started five of Real's 16 league games this season and was known to be frustrated with his lack of opportunities in the first team.
The former Manchester United player said he was now inspired by the challenge of cracking the American soccer market.
"I am proud to have played for two of the biggest clubs in football and I look forward to the new challenge of growing the world's most popular game in a country that is as passionate about its sport as my own.
But he insisted he would be giving his all for Real Madrid until the end of the season to try and win the major trophy that has eluded him since he joined the club in 2003.
"For the rest of this season I will continue to give 100 per cent to my coach, team mates and fans and I believe Fabio Capello will bring this club and its supporters the success they truly deserve."
Sport top earners
Top earners in global sport from June 2005 to June 2006, according to Forbes magazine:
1. Tiger Woods (Golf) $90 ($132) million
2. Michael Schumacher (Motor racing) $58 million
3. Muhammad Ali (Boxing) $55 million
4. Phil Mickelson (Golf) $47 million
5. Michael Jordan (Basketball) $32 million
6. Kobe Bryant (Basketball) $31 million
7. Shaquille O'Neal (Basketball) $30 million
8. Valentino Rossi (Motorcycling) $30 million
9. Tom Brady (American football) $29 million
10. Alex Rodriguez (Baseball) $29 million
11. Carson Palmer (American football) $28 million
12. David Beckham (Soccer) $27 million