Britain’s highest profile family may have relocated to Madrid over the summer but they will be holiday neighbours with Beckham’s former Manchester United team mates Gary Neville, Paul Sholes, Wes Brown and Nicky Butt.

Fellow England players Wayne Bridge, Ashley Cole, Joe Cole, Kieron Dyer, David James and Michael Owen have also each bought luxury $1.6 million dive-bedroom villas on the Palm Jumeirah, jutting five km out into the sea.

“It’s great news. It’s all international and glamorous,” said Graham Stacey, editor of Ahlan!, a Dubai-based weekly international glamour and local style weekly produced in the style of OK! magazine.

“Dubai sees a lot of actors and footballers, especially now in the off-season,” said Stacey.

New Ibiza?

Beckham and wife Victoria's new
summer home will be completed
by 2005

But he was reluctant to describe Dubai as an Ibiza for the nouveau riche, saying the emirate was much more private.

“Celebrities like Beckham can come here and go to shops with no problem,” he said.

Some 50,000 Britons live in the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is one, and around 250,000 head for the Gulf city state’s warmer climate yearly, mainly on package deals to a string of beachside hotels.

The Palm Jumeirah’s publicity coup was widely picked up by Britain’s newspapers and tabloids alike.

“The innocent holiday pleasure of joining a game of beach football will never be the same,” noted the weekly Observer.

“Try it on Dubai’s sun-kissed sand and you might find yourself playing a team featuring 150 million pounds ($244 million) of talent led by David Beckham.”

The News of the World tabloid reported that the 11 football stars paid only half price for their villas on a directive from Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid al-Maktoum.