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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 February, 2004, 12:35 GMT
Buying their Beckham
By Alex Trickett

Alex Rodriguez in action for the Texas Rangers
Alex Rodriguez's move to the New York Yankees was almost inevitable.

As moths are drawn to a flame, baseball's brightest stars invariably make their way to Yankee Stadium, home of the most successful franchise in American sport.

Globally, only European football monarchs Real Madrid can rival New York in terms of their talent pool and buying power.

So how do the sporting world's biggest juggernauts match up?

PLAYERS: Edge to Real Madrid

David Beckham
Becks is the most recent of Real Madrid's "galacticos"
The Yankees add A-Rod, 28, to a line-up which already includes four of the highest paid names in baseball; ace pitcher Kevin Brown, super slugger Jason Giambi and outfielders Gary Sheffield and Bernie Williams.

So star-studded is their squad that Rodriguez will move from his usual position of shortstop to accommodate their biggest star, Yankees hero Derek Jeter.

Real Madrid have made no secret of their policy of buying a "galacticos" player every year.

By adding their own 28-year-old icon - David Beckham - to the mix last summer, they risked unbalancing a winning side.

But Ronaldo, Raul, Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo have kept them on course for success at home and abroad. And the tabloid talk is now of Real gunning for Arsenal's Thierry Henry.

PAYROLL: Edge to Yankees

Brilliant players bring bank-breaking wage demands and there is little to choose between Real and New York's payrolls.

Madrid fork out an estimated 140m euros (95m) a year.

The Yankees will be splashing out even more this year - an estimated $190m (100m) -after taking on Rodriguez's huge contract from the Texas Rangers.

FAMOUS FANS: Edge to Yankees

George W Bush
Even George W had something to say about A-Rod
Plenty of famous people care deeply about Real Madrid, not least Victoria Beckham.

But the fact that US President George W Bush took time out to tell the nation his thoughts on the A-Rod trade, hints at just how big this swap is in the United States.

"I was as surprised as anyone when I read about it," he told the NBC television network on Sunday.

"The Yanks will have one heck of a team with him in the infield."

'WORLD' DOMINANCE: Edge to Real Madrid

New York have won baseball's World Series 26 times, dwarfing the achievements of any other Major League Baseball team.

But their frequently adopted title of "world champions" is deceptive because foreign teams are not invited to take part in what is effectively baseball's domestic decider.

Real Madrid boast 29 Spanish league titles.

Crucially, however, they have also prevailed in the European Cup/Champions League - which is widely accepted as the world's premier club competition - nine times.

GLOBAL APPEAL: Level pegging

Hillary Clinton sports a Yankees cap
Hillary Clinton dons a Yankees cap
Marketing-wise, New York and Real Madrid are no slouches.

The famous Yankees emblem can be seen on baseball caps all around the world even if many wearers know little about A-Rod and his batting heroics.

Both teams, meanwhile, espouse the recent sporting strategy of buying players who can help them sell shirts.

Beckham has unlocked a huge market for Madrid in Asia and New York have spread their influence to Japan by employing talented left fielder Hideki Matsui.

Both clubs, however, are criticised for the way they buy success - rather than breed it - pillaging teams of their best talent along the way.

OVERALL: Edge to Real Madrid

Alex Rodriguez is regarded as the best infield player in baseball and the Yankees will be expected to win the World Series immediately with him in their side.

But, such is the importance of the pitcher in their sport, that they may still fall short.

The final edge goes to Real Madrid, whose empire contains several of the most recognisable sportsmen in the world.

It will be a major surprise if Beckham, Zidane and the rest of the "galacticos" do not win the Champions League in May.



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