BY RANDY PHILLIPS
MONTREAL – Impact technical director Nick De Santis scoffs at the latest rumour involving his team and British soccer superstar David Beckham.
That one had Beckham being loaned by his current club, the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer, to the Impact for the balance of the United Soccer Leagues First Division regular season and playoffs.
“Can’t happen,” a smiling De Santis said. “There’s a roster freeze in our league.”
Okay. Then what about the other rumour – the one that has Beckham and team president Joey Saputo forming a partnership in a bid to get the Impact into MLS in 2012?
The party line on that one is “no comment.”
Saputo stayed true to his character Tuesday by not formally addressing anything that even hinted as speculation, as was the case in a New York Times story reporting that Beckham and his management team were interested in teaming up with Saputo in an effort to join MLS.
Beckham’s five-year deal with MLS and the Galaxy includes a clause making it possible for him to operate an MLS team – or be part of one – starting in 2012, after he retires from the league as an player.
Montreal is thought to be a strong contender to become the 19th franchise in MLS in 2012, and Saputo has had contact with a number of potential partnership groups in recent months. But other than telling New York Times writer Jack Bell late last week that “I think Montreal would be a great candidate to be the 19th team in MLS, no matter who’s involved,” Saputo didn’t offer anything more.
While MLS commissioner Don Garber and league president Mark Abbott are expected here before the end of the year for further discussions with Saputo, the league’s response to the New York Times story was an email message from Dan Courtemanche, senior vice-president for marketing and communications.
It read: “While we have recently had preliminary discussions with the Saputo family about future MLS expansion into Montreal, we have not had any discussions with David Beckham, or his representatives, regarding ownership of an expansion team in Montreal.”
Beckham is in Serbia, where he will be in action Wednesday in a World Cup qualifier against Croatia. Following up on what had been reported, Beckham said only that he was “keeping his options (in soccer) open” once he leaves the Galaxy.
Impact team captain Mauro Biello said he only knows what has been reported, but allowed himself to imagine what Beckham would mean to soccer in Montreal.
“He’s the most popular player in the world,” Biello said. “With Beckham comes prestige and popularity. Time will tell what will happen with that. For us (as players), we don’t try to focus on that. The people who are going to handle that, well, it’s their job to handle that.”
Meanwhile, the Impact has plenty to focus on, starting Wednesday night at Saputo Stadium when it entertains the Vancouver Whitecaps in the second-to-last regular season game (7:30 p.m., The TEAM 990 Radio, CKAC, USLlive.com).
If Miami FC loses to Rochester (they played Tuesday night), the Impact will already have a playoff spot wrapped up. If not, Montreal will try to get the job done itself Wednesday night.
Vancouver was last here June 20, when the Impact won 2-1. But the Whitecaps actually rolled into town two days earlier to witness firsthand the Impact’s 6-1 collapse vs. Toronto FC of MLS, that cost the Whitecaps the Nutrilite Canadian Championship and a berth in CONCACAF Champions League.
“I’m sure Vancouver hasn’t forgotten that,” Biello said. “It’s a big rivalry between us, and every game means a lot for Canadians and Canadian pride, I guess. And this game won’t be any different.
“They’ve got to secure a (playoff) spot, just like us, so they’re fighting.”
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