Ex-Town man taking care of Becks

FORMER Ipswich defender Andy Bernal is revelling in a new role – as David Beckham's minder.The 37-year-old Aussie's brief is to ensure that the England skipper, pop star wife Victoria and their two young sons adjust to life in Spain.

By Mel Henderson

FORMER Ipswich defender Andy Bernal is revelling in a new role – as David Beckham's minder.

The 37-year-old Aussie's brief is to ensure that the England skipper, pop star wife Victoria and their two young sons adjust to life in Spain.

No sooner had Beckham's £25 million transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid been completed than Bernal swung into action.

He landed the plum job because he works for the London-based management company, SFX, who handle the star's many multi-million pound business interests.

The agency decided Spanish-speaking Bernal was the best man for the job and he has been by Beckham's side since the player first arrived at the Bernabeu Stadium.

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Canberra-born Bernal's parents hail from the Real stronghold of Castilla Leon and he actually had stints in Spain with Jerez and Sporting Gijon early in his career.

Then he made 11 senior appearances – seven as substitute – for Ipswich after he impressed then Town boss John Duncan during a trial period.

He stayed at Portman Road for almost three years, then returned Down Under for a further four with first club Sydney Olympic.

But in 1994 he was back in England, this time to join Reading, and he played more than 200 games during his six-season stay at Elm Park.

His Spanish stint is expected to last around six months, by which time Beckham should be fully settled in and familiar with his new surroundings.

Bernal, who hung up his boots to become an agent three years ago after a long-term foot injury made it impossible to continue, said: "This is the arena of football I want to be in.

"I played to a decent level, although I never played for Manchester United or Real Madrid. We can't all do that.

"But I'm as ambitious as a player manager as I was as a player. Call it good luck or whatever, but it doesn't get much bigger than this."

His job is to make sure the Beckham money-making empire runs as smoothly in Madrid as it did in Manchester.

He will liaise with the marketing men, the media and the club itself to make sure Beckham divides his time sensibly.

When 500 journalists from 25 countries attended Beckham's medical, it was clear the circus needed a good ringmaster.

Fellow England stars, including Michael Owen, Emile Heskey, Steven Gerrard and Darius Vassell are also clients of SFX.

So if Real or Barcelona decide to invest in other stars from this country, Bernal's reign in Spain could last longer than the intended six months.

"The first three or four months are the important ones – he'll be getting used to the language, the culture, the team, the lifestyle," said Bernal.

"It's pretty obvious he doesn't need advice with his football."

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