SYDNEY (Reuters) - David Beckham's announcement that he will be bringing an end to his career in North America next month sparked a race to lure the former England captain to Australia on Tuesday.
Already fired up by Football Federation Australia (FFA)'s announcement last week that Beckham's representatives had been in touch, A-league clubs have been lining up to signal their intention to have the 37-year-old in their midfield.
The clubs were clearly undeterred by a statement from the Beckham's management team last Friday that he had "absolutely no plans" to play in Australia.
"David Beckham has confirmed the MLS Cup final will be his last game for the Galaxy. The race is on," was posted on the official Perth Glory Twitter account.
Melbourne Heart chief executive Scott Munn confirmed his club would definitely be putting in a bid to bring 'Brand Beckham' to Australia's second largest city.
"What I can say is that it's certainly real, we're putting forward an offer, it's compelling and the opportunity is here for him to come here," he told reporters in Melbourne.
"That is absolutely legitimate. Let's let David get through next week, play the final of the MLS and hopefully he'll have a win. Then I'm sure he'll assess every offer."
Beckham said on Tuesday he was leaving L.A. Galaxy after next month's MLS Cup final and wanted to pursue "experience one last challenge" before the end of his playing career.
With the A-League season already underway and the league's salary cap as strict as that in the MLS, a Beckham stint in Australia would most likely be as a guest player for 10 games.
Central Coast Mariners have also signalled their interest, while Western Sydney Wanderers could launch a bid with backing from the FFA, who are funding them in their debut season.
Sydney FC are unlikely to make a move having signed Juventus and Italy great Alessandro Del Piero for this season, although his salary of A$2 million ($2.08 million) a year is an indication of the sort of money that might be on the table.
Beckham came to Australia with the LA Galaxy last year and helped attract a crowd of 34,608 to a friendly against the Melbourne Victory.
($1 = 0.9608 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by John O'Brien)