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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 June, 2003, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Beckham fever grips Japan
David Beckham and wife Victoria walk past a wall of cameras and reporters upon arrival  in Tokyo
Beckham has a big following in Japan
England footballer David Beckham has arrived in Japan on a promotional tour, hours after it was announced that he was moving to Real Madrid.

Beckham is moving to the Spanish club in a deal worth $41.3m, after 13 years with Manchester United.

Posing only briefly for photographs in front of hundreds of fans and dozens of cameramen, David Beckham and his wife Victoria were quickly whisked out to their hotel.

Beckham did, however, have time to tell waiting reporters he was happy to be moving to Spain.

He also said he was pleased to be back in Japan, where he has a huge following.

"I really like Japan," he said.

"Yeah, I love it here," added Victoria.

Manchester United enjoy a huge popularity across Asia, and in Japan that is in large measure due to Beckham.

"He's just so much more exciting to watch than Japanese players. He's gorgeous!" said Mari Kobayashi, part of a screaming crowd.

"I was so happy to see him," said another fan, 30-year-old Mari, wiping tears from her eyes.

Find out who pays David Beckham what

"I've been travelling since last night to get here, but it was well worth it," said the woman who travelled 450 kilometres (280 miles) to Tokyo to catch a glimpse of the footballer.

But one group of schoolboys, who had been at the airport since six in the morning, said they had waited in vain.

"We're really upset we did not get to see him, he went past too quickly," lamented a dejected Koson Nakajima.

The news of Beckham's move came after weeks of speculation, with Barcelona, AC Milan and Inter Milan also chasing the England star.

But Real Madrid, who initially denied they wanted to sign him, swooped late to lure Beckham to the Bernabeu, where he will play alongside Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Ronaldo and Raul.

Beckham had been increasingly at odds with Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, after he had been left on the substitute's bench several times last season.

But he paid tribute to his former boss, in a statement issued as he arrived in Japan.

"I would like to publicly thank Sir Alex Ferguson for making me the player I am today," he said.

"I wish Manchester United the best of luck."

Promotional tour

Beckham's image is as ubiquitous as his popularity in Japan, where it sells products from engine oil to chocolate, beauty salons to mobile phones.

TOP TRANSFER DEALS
Zinedine Zidane: $64.4m (2001, Real Madrid)
Luis Figo: $56.1m (2000, Real Madrid)
Hernan Crespo: $54.1m (2000, Lazio)
Christian Vieri: $50m (1999, Inter Milan)
Rio Ferdinand: $47m (2002, Man Utd)

Last year, a three metre-high chocolate statue of the footballer was created by confectionery manufacturer, Meiji Seika, one of a number of companies which pays him for endorsements.

Known as Beckham-Sama, or Prince Beckham, he is expected to be met by large crowds as he tours the country.

It is his image as a family man that is part of his attraction to the Japanese.

"I like him because he is cool, has a family and loves his wife," said Rie Yamanaka.

A BBC correspondent in Tokyo says that his Japanese corporate sponsors can be confident his standing there will not be affected by the move to Real.

"He will take his fans with him to whichever club he joins," said Makiko Kiraga, 29, as she waited for his arrival.




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